Sen. Bernie Sanders on Friday expressed his opposition to the bipartisan Covid-19 relief bill currently being hashed out in the U.S. Senate, arguing that any package that denies stimulus checks to millions of struggling households yet guarantees corporations immunity from coronavirus-related lawsuits is unacceptable.
Sanders intends to vote against the $908 billion relief measure—circulated earlier this week by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Mitt Romney (R-Utah), and Susan Collins (R-Me.)—unless it is made substantially better.
"There's no vaccine to save bank accounts, late housing payments, deteriorated health, or holes in local and state governments."
—Rep. Rashida Tlaib
"Given the enormous economic desperation facing working families in this country today, I will not be able to support the recently announced Manchin-Romney Covid proposal unless it is significantly improved," said Sanders in a statement Friday afternoon.
"Tens of millions of Americans living in desperation today would receive absolutely no financial help from this proposal," the democratic socialist lawmaker from Vermont added.
Sanders was not alone in demanding direct cash relief for "the people," who—in Rep. Rashida Tlaib's (D-Mich.) words—have been "left behind by the current administration in a pandemic."
"A vaccine can hopefully save lives," Tlaib tweeted, "but there's no vaccine to save bank accounts, late housing payments, deteriorated health, or holes in local and state governments."
A vaccine can hopefully save lives, but there's no vaccine to save bank accounts, late housing payments, deteriorated health, or holes in local & state governments. The people were left behind by the current admin in a pandemic.Let's not repeat the same mistake. #DirectCashRelief
— Rashida Tlaib (@RashidaTlaib) December 4, 2020
The compromise legislation includes unemployment insurance that "would provide hundreds of billions of dollars to jobless Americans," the Washington Post reported Friday. "It would also provide some funding for states and cities hit by declines in revenue... and offer new funding for struggling small businesses... It would provide smaller amounts of money, in the tens of billions, to a number of other critical needs, including schools; childcare; hunger; rental assistance; and other pressing demands."
Progressives have decried the bill's lack of stimulus checks and the inclusion of a "liability shield" ensuring corporations are not held accountable for endangering public health.
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The proposal's liability provision "would continue to provide a get-out-of-jail free card to companies that put the lives of their workers and customers at risk," Sanders said, adding that it will "encourage corporations to avoid implementing the common sense safety standards needed to protect workers and consumers—and make a bad situation worse."
Liability shield in any Covid-19 relief package is immoral. Our residents will pay the costs with their health. https://t.co/PJVtYGOzlg
— Rashida Tlaib (@RashidaTlaib) December 4, 2020
Meanwhile, the Post reported that conservative opponents of the deal, including Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), have rejected the framework for allocating $160 billion in fiscal aid to state and local governments.
With the GOP committed to its demand for corporate immunity despite progressive opposition, and congressional Democrats more supportive than Republicans of emergency funding for cash-strapped state and local governments, the Post's Jeff Stein predicted that it "seems impossible at this point we'll have one without the other."
"Maybe if everyone in the U.S. incorporated as an LLC, Mitch McConnell would actually do something for them."
Because lawmakers are trying to "include the coronavirus relief effort with the spending bill needed to avert a federal government shutdown after December 11," time is running out to reach a deal, the Post explained. "Negotiators said they have an informal Monday deadline for reaching an agreement and releasing legislative text."
While Tlaib and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) have joined Sanders in advocating for the package to include stimulus checks—ideally "recurring"—it is still unclear whether the absence of one-time or monthly income support would be a dealbreaker for the two House members.
On Twitter, Ocasio-Cortez pointed out that Canada provided $2,000 per month to its citizens. In the U.S., on the other hand, "a second stimulus check is getting blocked" because Republicans "want corporate bailouts and austerity 'in exchange' for it."
"Maybe," Ocasio-Cortez added, "if everyone in the U.S. incorporated as an LLC, Mitch McConnell would actually do something for them."