Presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) skipped a procedural vote in the Senate Sunday evening, opting instead to participate in a livestream with progressive “Squad” members Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI).
Senate Democrats blocked a $1.4 trillion relief bill designed to boost the stalling U.S. economy over the next 12 weeks. The bipartisan package, which Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) introduced, failed to obtain approval on a 47-47 procedural vote. Sixty votes were needed to pass. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said Sunday she will move forward with her own emergency relief plan.
“It is hard for me to believe that in the midst of this terrible crisis that we have a Senate Republican bill that would give the Trump administration a blank check to hand out corporate welfare to virtually any corporation in America, without conditions as to how they can protect workers in this country,” Sanders claimed of the bipartisan rescue package.
Sanders then asserted that the plan would provide too much relief for corporations and not enough for American families.
“I know some of my Republican colleagues are talking about, gee, a one time, $1,000 payment, really, really gonna last for two or three weeks, and what happens after that?” asked the Vermont senator. “We must act in an unprecedented way. Don’t matter what it costs.”
Ocasio-Cortez echoed Sanders’ criticism, calling the package a “complete mockery of public service.”
“We’re supposed to be here to help people. What Mitch McConnell and the Republicans in the Senate just presented was just a package of corporate sweeteners to hand a blank check to Trump and Mnuchin,” said the New York Democrat.
Ocasio-Cortez then suggested that the Chinese coronavirus has taken a toll on the country because it has “one of the worst healthcare systems in the developed world,” which she attributed to “inequities of race and immigration status.”
“The reason we are here and the reason this crisis is hitting us so hard is because we have one of the worst healthcare systems in the developed world. We pay less than a living wage to a shamefully large amount of workers in the United States. Paid sick leave is not guaranteed,” Ocasio-Cortez said.
“And we have to make sure that people have basic rights and — as well as labor rights,” the freshman congresswoman went on. “So all of these things are contributing factors as to why this is hitting us so hard.”
“But then you take that economic piece and you layer on inequities of race and immigration status, and you see how things can get even worse,” she added.
After the vote failed, McConnell criticized the Democrats on the Senate floor, stating there had been approximately 48 hours of bipartisan negotiations, accusing them of “fiddling” with the emotions, healthcare, and the markets of the American people.
“The American people expect us to act tomorrow, and I want everyone to fully understand, if we aren’t able to act tomorrow, it’ll be because of our colleagues on the other side continuing to dither when the country expects us to come together and address this problem.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) responded that the negotiations were not bipartisan and that the bill “has many problems,” specifically a large corporate bailout that contains no protections for workers and little oversight.
“Also very troubling in the bill were significant shortfalls of money that our hospitals, states, cities, and medical workers desperately needed,” he said. “This is a public health crisis. It is inexplicable to skimp on funding to address the pandemic.”
The UPI contributed to this report.