Sen. Bernie Sanders is raising the alarm over the Senate economic stimulus bill being drawn up to combat the domestic effects of the global coronavirus pandemic, warning that the legislation is being unduly influenced by lobbyists and business interests—not the American people.
"Now is not the time to allow large corporations to take advantage of this horrific crisis by ripping off U.S. taxpayers and profiteering off of the pandemic," the Vermont senator said in a statement Sunday.
The $1 trillion stimulus bill is being drafted in the Senate and the chamber's leadership aims to vote on the legislation on Monday. Reportedly included in the bill are a number of provisions assisting industries affected by the fallout from the coronavirus outbreak—huge bailouts that Sanders said were too much to ask the American taxpayer for in a time of crisis.
According to Sanders:
Just in the last few days, we've seen numerous examples of lobbyists and their agents fighting for special favors: the airline industry is asking for $50 billion, the private space industry is asking for $5 billion, the hotel industry wants $150 billion, the National Association of Manufacturers wants $1.4 trillion, the International Council of Shopping Centers wants a guarantee of up to $1 trillion, Adidas wants to sneak in a long-sought provision allowing people to use pretax money to pay for gym memberships and fitness equipment—even when many gyms and retail stores are closed nationwide, and corporate pork producers are using the coronavirus to push Congress to expedite guest worker visas, even at a time when international travel and immigration is largely shut down.
Negotiations are continuing between Senate Democrats and Republicans and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. On an appearance on Fox News Sunday, Mnuchin said that a deal was close between the two sides and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
"I've been speaking to Mitch McConnell, Chuck Schumer, the speaker, and I think we have fundamental understanding," said Mnuchin. "We look foward to wrapping it up today."
As Politico's Jake Sherman reported Sunday, there are still a number of outstanding issues to be resolved.
THE POSITIONING BEGINS — here are some problems with the bill, as flagged by a democrat.
Big four plus mnuchin meeting this am. pic.twitter.com/dlKVKO7WBG
— Jake Sherman (@JakeSherman) March 22, 2020
Democrats hope to add to unemployment benefits for workers and paid sick leave, while limiting corporate abuse of bailout money. The bill is expected to include cash payments for workers.
Sanders, in his statement Sunday, called for bold action to protect the American people.
"In this time of unprecedented crisis, we need an unprecedented legislative response that focuses on the emergency health care needs of the American people and that puts working families and the poor ahead of CEOs and huge corporations," said Sanders.