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Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) talks during an interview with MSNBC in the Russell Rotunda in Washington on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) talks during an interview with MSNBC in the Russell Rotunda in Washington on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020. (Photo: Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

After Billionaires Gained $1 Trillion in Wealth, Says Sanders, It Is Not 'Radical' to Demand More $1,200 Stimulus Checks

"The American people cannot wait any longer. They need economic relief now."

Jake Johnson

Sen. Bernie Sanders on Friday took to the Senate floor to once again make the case for sending another round of $1,200 stimulus checks to working-class Americans, denouncing as "unconscionable" the fact that U.S. billionaires have seen their wealth grow by $1 trillion during nine months of crisis while ordinary people have received just one direct payment from Congress.

"One trillion dollars for billionaires. One $1,200 check for the working class," said the Vermont senator. "That is immoral and that has got to change."

Following Sen. Josh Hawley's (R-Mo.) unsuccessful effort earlier Friday, Sanders requested unanimous consent to pass legislation that would provide $1,200 direct payments to U.S. adults and $500 to children, a relief proposal modeled after the stimulus checks provided under the CARES Act.

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), who objected to Hawley's unanimous consent request, once again spoke up to block Sanders' attempt to pass the direct payments, declaring that "we do not have an unlimited checking account"—a concern that did not stop him from voting to give massive tax breaks to the rich and large corporations in 2017.

In his floor speech, Sanders said providing another round of direct payments amid widespread and growing suffering "is not a radical idea," noting that President Donald Trump and an overwhelming majority of Americans across party lines support additional checks. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), in remarks just ahead of Sanders', also endorsed the demand for $1,200 payments.

"The American people cannot wait any longer. They need economic relief now," said Sanders. "Every working class American needs $1,200—$2,400 for couples and $500 for kids."

Watch the full speech:

Sanders' latest push for direct payments came as congressional leaders continued to negotiate the final details of a $900 billion relief package that includes stimulus checks of $600 in addition to enhanced unemployment benefits, funds for vaccine distribution, and other programs.

With a government shutdown looming, the House and Senate late Friday passed a two-day spending bill to give lawmakers more time to complete a relief package and a sprawling year-end funding bill. The government will shut down Sunday night if Congress fails to act.

Sanders said on the Senate floor Friday that he "will object" to passage of an omnibus government funding bill if Congress does not also approve a coronavirus relief measure containing "substantial" direct payments.

"The truth is that the working families of this country today are probably in worse economic condition than at any time since the Great Depression," said Sanders. "Millions of people are unable to pay their rent and worried about being evicted. Hunger is literally at the highest level it has been in several decades, and in the midst of this terrible, terrible pandemic, we got tens of millions of people who cannot afford to go to a doctor. That is unacceptable."

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