Sen. Bernie Sanders over the weekend blasted Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for continuing to delay the passage of an urgently needed economic relief package even as the U.S. death toll from the Covid-19 pandemic surpassed 100,000 and the end to financial pain for tens of thousands of working families is nowhere in sight.
"Given the enormity of this crisis it is incomprehensible for Senator McConnell to tell us that he sees no urgency in passing another emergency relief bill and that he wants to wait another month before taking action."
—Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)"Let's be clear. We are in the midst of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression," Sanders declared in a statement on Saturday. "More than 100,000 Americans have died from the coronavirus, 40 million Americans have lost their jobs, millions have lost their health insurance and people across the country face hunger and the fear of being evicted from their homes."
"Given the enormity of this crisis," he continued, "it is incomprehensible for Senator McConnell to tell us that he sees no urgency in passing another emergency relief bill and that he wants to wait another month before taking action."
While the Democratic-controlled House passed the $3 trillion+ HEROES Act earlier this month to expand unemployment benefits, offered federal aid to state and local governments, boost support for small businesses, and expand federal support for healthcare access, McConnell has made it clear he sees no rush to act or even to begin debate on the House bill.
"We’re taking a careful look at a fourth and final bill," McConnell said Friday. "You could anticipate the decision being made on whether to go forward in about a month. And it will be narrowly crafted, designed to help us where we are a month from now, not where we were three months ago."
It was a comment that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi—who ushered the HEROES Act through the House despite objections from many progressive lawmakers, including Sanders, who said the bill did not go far enough—met with frustration.
"With all of this, with all these deaths, and the need for us to pass so that as law more specific prescribed direction to the administration, who should have done this on their own, Mitch McConnell says no, we need a pause," Pelosi said. "We need a pause? Tell that to the virus. Is the virus taking a pause? Is hunger in America taking a pause?"
Sanders, who has repeatedly said the Democrats bill should be even stronger than it is shared Pelosi's frustration with McConnell.
"The American people cannot afford to wait another month," Sanders said. "Our most vulnerable communities are hungry, desperate and under enormous emotional stress. The American people want action from Congress and they want it NOW."
In terms of improving the House version, Sanders said a bill to adequately address the scale of the crisis must include:
1. The Paycheck Security Act. In order to avoid another Great Depression, the Senate must pass legislation to require the government to guarantee 100 percent of the paychecks and benefits of American workers up to $90,000 a year.
2. The Health Care Emergency Guarantee Act. During this public health crisis, everyone in America must be able to receive all of the medical care they need, regardless of their income, immigration status or insurance coverage. The Senate must pass legislation to empower Medicare to pay all of the medical bills of the uninsured and the under-insured — including prescription drugs — for the duration of the coronavirus pandemic.
3. $2,000 Emergency Monthly Payments. The one-time $1,200 check that Americans received is not nearly enough to pay the rent, put food on the table and make ends meet. During this unprecedented crisis, Congress has a responsibility to make sure that every working-class American receives a $2,000 emergency payment a month so they can pay their bills. This will also serve as a major stimulus in reviving the economy.
As the economy has tanked for the tens of millions now out of work and unsure of what comes next, Sanders in recent days has joined others in pointing out the gross inequality that has permitted the wealth of the nation's richest individuals to surge by tens of billions of dollars even as the most vulnerable are cast aside.
At at time when millions of people are losing their jobs, the billionaire class should not be cashing in on a pandemic. That is what a rigged economy looks like. pic.twitter.com/SXRy5b4Zq1
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) May 28, 2020
"This is what unfettered capitalism is all about," Sanders tweeted last week. "In the past 30 years the top 1% increased its wealth by $21 trillion while the bottom 50% lost $900 billion—and the pandemic has only made the inequality worse. We need an economy that works for all, not just the few."