Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) ripped Democratic leaders on Monday for backing a $908 billion COVID-19 relief package after rejecting a $1.8 trillion proposal from President Donald Trump in October.
Sanders appeared on CNN and host Jake Tapper asked whether it was a mistake for Democrats to have rejected the president’s compromise plan.
“That’s right. … That’s what I’m saying,” Sanders said.
Trump’s $1.8 trillion proposal likely would have included $1,200 direct payments to millions of Americans. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was demanding a $2.2 trillion bill at the time and refused any compromise.
The $908 billion plan, meanwhile, does not include the $1,200 payments, which were part of Congress’ first stimulus package in March.
“What we need is a compromise. I know I can’t get everything that I want. But this bill really is not a compromise,” Sanders said of the latest proposal from a bipartisan group of senators introduced last week. “It gives the Republicans almost everything that they wanted.”
Pelosi on Friday all but admitted that she held the bill up for political reasons. Asked during a press conference why she is willing to take “half a loaf,” the speaker cut off the reporter.
“That was not a mistake, it was a decision, and it has taken us to a place where we can do the right thing without other, shall we say, considerations in the legislation that we don’t want,” Pelosi said. “The fact is, I’m very proud of where we are.”
“That is a total game changer: a new president and a vaccine,” the California Democrat said.
The latest bill would deliver another $160 billion to states and cities and $180 billion for unemployment insurance, two issues Democrats have pushed hard. The unemployment benefits would pay $300 per week for 18 weeks, retroactive to Dec. 1, which is half of what was included in the CARES Act passed in March.
The proposal would also set aside $288 billion for assistance to small businesses via the Paycheck Protection Program. In addition, the bill would free up $45 billion for transportation-related industries such as airlines and $16 billion for development of a COVID-19 vaccine development. Another $182 billion would be used for healthcare provider relief fund, education, student loans, housing assistance, nutrition, and agriculture programs and the U.S. Postal Service.
“This is a COVID emergency relief framework,” Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) said last week, adding it would be “inexcusable” for Congress to adjourn without providing more aid. “It’s not the time for political brinkmanship. … This is going to get us through the most difficult times.”
Democrats and Republicans have been at loggerheads for months, which neither side compromising on their demands. In October, Trump said all lawmakers should agree on helping Americans.
“If I am sent a Stand Alone Bill for Stimulus Checks ($1,200), they will go out to our great people IMMEDIATELY. I am ready to sign right now. Are you listening Nancy?” Trump tweeted on Oct. 7.
Under the first stimulus bill Congress passed in March, individuals were eligible for payments up to $1,200, but that amount declined for those with an adjusted gross income higher than $75,000 a year. The $1,200 payment dropped by 5% of every dollar above $75,000, or $50 for every $1,000. The benefit didn’t apply to individuals with incomes over $99,000.
Married couples with combined incomes up to $150,000 were eligible to receive $2,400, subject to the same phaseout that applied to individuals. The payments phased out entirely for couples making $198,000 or more. Families also got $500 per dependent child under the age of 16.
Approximately 120 million U.S. taxpayers qualified for direct payments from the federal government under the bill.
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