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WATCH: Sanders Refutes McConnell Claim That $2,000 Direct Payments Amount to 'Socialism for Rich People'

"I'm delighted that after talking on the floor of the Senate for years about socialism for the rich, apparently that has gotten across to my Republican friends."

Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks on the Senate floor on Thursday, December 31, 2020. (Photo: PBS Newshour/Screengrab)

After sardonically commending Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for his sudden concern about "socialism for the rich," Sen. Bernie Sanders on Thursday rejected the Kentucky Republican's attempt to attach that description to the push for $2,000 direct payments, which the Vermont senator noted would overwhelmingly benefit middle- and working-class Americans.

"I'm delighted that after talking on the floor of the Senate for years about socialism for the rich, apparently that has gotten across to my Republican friends," Sanders (I-Vt.) said on the Senate floor Thursday afternoon. "Of course, that's what we do every single day. That's why we have the incredible level of income and wealth inequality that exists in this country... Decade after decade, we have used this body to provide massive tax breaks to the rich, to provide corporate welfare to corporations who don't need it."

"I am delighted to hear the majority leader talking about socialism for the rich," the Vermont senator continued. "And I hope we will continue that discussion in the next session."
—Sen. Bernie Sanders

But the Vermont senator said McConnell's claim that the $2,000 relief payments—as proposed in a House-passed bill—amount to "socialism for rich people" is false, pointing to a new Tax Policy Center analysis showing that less than one percent of the benefits of the checks would flow to the top five percent of the income distribution.

The "overwhelming majority of those funds," said Sanders, would "go to the middle class, the working class, low-income people who in the midst of this pandemic, are in desperate economic condition."

By contrast, 52% of the benefits of the $1.5 trillion Tax Cuts and Jobs Act—a 2017 bill that McConnell enthusiastically supported—went to the top five percent in 2020.

"Now, again, I am delighted to hear the majority leader talking about socialism for the rich," the Vermont senator continued. "And I hope we will continue that discussion in the next session."

Watch:

Sanders concluded his remarks by once again requesting unanimous consent to hold an up-or-down vote on the CASH Act, which would deliver $2,000 payments to individuals who earn up to $75,000 a year and joint filers who earn up to $150,000, with the payments gradually phasing out for those with higher incomes.

McConnell objected without explanation, keeping the Senate on track for a final vote on overriding President Donald Trump's veto of the National Defense Authorization Act.

"All of a sudden, Mitch McConnell is 'worried' about giving a $2,000 check to someone who 'doesn't need it,'" Sanders tweeted Thursday. "That's funny. He had no problem giving a $560 million tax break to Sheldon Adelson who is worth $34.3 billion. Total hypocrisy! Let the Senate vote on $2,000 now, Mitch."

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