'We Have Got to Act Now': As GOP Introduces Weak Relief Bill, Sanders Says Dems Already Have Enough Votes to Pass Stronger Package

Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont on Sunday told ABC host Martha Raddatz that there is a sufficient amount of support within the Democratic Party to pass President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package and warned that failing to immediately distribute aid to struggling households throughout the country would represent an unconscionable betrayal of the millions of voters who handed Democrats unified power of the federal government with a directive to improve people’s lives.

“The question is not bipartisanship. The question is addressing the unprecedented crises that we face right now.”
—Bernie Sanders

“We made promises to the American people,” said Sanders. “We’re going to keep those promises.”

“Does your party have the votes to pass the relief package through the reconciliation process, if you decide to go that route?” asked Raddatz.

“I believe that we do,” Sanders, an independent member of the Democratic caucus, replied. “It’s hard for me to imagine any Democrat… who doesn’t understand the need to go forward right now, in an aggressive way, to protect the working families of this country.”

While acknowledging that Democratic lawmakers have “differences and concerns” about Biden’s $1.9 trillion opening offer, Sanders stressed that “we’re going to support the president of the United States, and we’re going to… do what the American people overwhelmingly want us to do.”

Although polling shows that the U.S. electorate overwhelmingly supports “an expansive government effort to combat Covid-19,” Raddatz drew attention to tensions within the Democratic Party about moving forward unilaterally, if necessary.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.)—a right-wing lawmaker who last week reassured Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) that he would never vote to end the filibuster, a “Jim Crow relic” that requires 60 votes to pass major legislation and thus facilitates anti-democratic rule—on Friday emphasized his desire to “find a bipartisan pathway forward.”

Sanders—who is the incoming chairman of the Senate Budget Committee and has signaled his willingness to use the filibuster-proof budget reconciliation process to circumvent GOP obstructionism—wasn’t having it.

“Democrats have a majority [in the Senate] because of the fact that we won two seats with great candidates in Georgia,” said Sanders. “That campaign in many ways was a national campaign.”

Sens. Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock won in Georgia and by extension, Democrats won nationwide, Sanders said, because the party pledged to deliver relief checks, extend unemployment benefits, and “address the needs of working families.”

“If politics means anything, if you’re going to have any degree of credibility,” the senator continued, “you can’t campaign on a series of issues and then after the election when you get power say, ‘Oh well, you know what, we’re changing our mind.’ That’s not the way it works.”

Sanders’ call for the Democrats to quickly fulfill their mandate to reduce suffering by providing relief as soon as possible coincided with reports that ten Republican senators on Sunday requested a meeting with Biden to discuss their $600 billion coronavirus relief package, which they have presented as an alternative to the president’s plan.

According to The Washington Post, the senators, led by Susan Collins (R-Maine), characterized their proposal as a fulfillment of Biden’s “calls for unity.” The newspaper noted that the GOP’s offer is expected to further restrict the size of relief checks as well as who qualifies for them—slashing direct payments to $1,000 for those with individual incomes under $50,000 per year.

The group of GOP lawmakers intends to share additional details on Monday, the same day “Democratic leaders in both chambers are tentatively planning to introduce a budget resolution,” the Post reported.

As Common Dreams reported last week, leaders of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) in which they warned that “if we aim too low, the financial consequences will be catastrophic, long-lasting, and borne by the American families who can least afford it.”

The CPC’s letter came in response to reports that the Biden administration—after seeking input about coronavirus relief from ostensible deficit-hawks, including Collins who, even after supporting tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, claims Biden’s existing plan for direct payments will benefit allegedly undeserving middle-class families—is considering splitting its package into two parts in an attempt to attract GOP support.

Excluding more households from relief through additional means-testing, Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) cautioned last week, would be “not just bad economics, but terrible politics.” Trying to “target” aid to the poorest individuals, Khanna said, would leave out millions of people with moderate incomes who are nonetheless struggling, breeding anti-government resentment in the process. “Have we learned nothing?” he asked.

With Sanders insisting that there is already enough support within the party to enact Biden’s original proposal, it remains to be seen how corporate Democrats will respond—needlessly collaborate with GOP lawmakers in pursuit of a watered-down bipartisan deal that represents elite “unity” but fails to meet the scale of the crisis, or listen to the progressive wing of the party and pass a robust relief package without the support of congressional Republicans.

“We have got to act, and we have got to act now,” Sanders said in his appearance on ABC.

Alluding to the $600 billion plan put forth by 10 Republican senators, Raddatz—who neglected to mention that the GOP previously spent months stonewalling relief—asked Sanders: “Is it a mistake for Democrats to consider abandoning bipartisan negotiations so soon?”

To which Sanders responded: “The issue is not bipartisanship, or not. The issue is are we going to address the incredible set of crises and the pain and the anxiety, which is in this country.”

“We have families… who cannot feed their kids,” the senator continued. “We have millions of people who face eviction. We are in the midst of the worst pandemic in 100 years.”

“The question is not bipartisanship,” Sanders added. “The question is addressing the unprecedented crises that we face right now.”

Biden on Friday expressed a similar sentiment: “I support passing Covid relief with support from Republicans if we can get it. But the Covid relief has to pass, there’s no ifs, ands, or buts.”

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» 'We Have Got to Act Now': As GOP Introduces Weak Relief Bill, Sanders Says Dems Already Have Enough Votes to Pass Stronger Package | Common Dreams | Radio Free | https://www.radiofree.org/2021/01/31/we-have-got-to-act-now-as-gop-introduces-weak-relief-bill-sanders-says-dems-already-have-enough-votes-to-pass-stronger-package/ | 2021-05-16T21:34:52+00:00
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