WASHINGTON — Sen. Bernie Sanders admitted that fellow Democrats, led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, were responsible for delaying urgently-needed coronavirus relief by walking away from the White House’s offer of a $1.8 trillion coronavirus package.
In an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper Monday the socialist two-time presidential candidate noted Pelosi’s hypocrisy for endorsing a smaller bipartisan $908 million deal last week after rejecting the twice-as-large proposal from President Trump in October.
“Democrats walked away from that deal because they wanted $2.2 trillion,” Tapper said.
“That’s right!” Sanders (I-Vt.) responded, confirming it was Democrats, not Republicans, who were to blame for months of inaction.
“They walked away from $1.8 trillion, was that a mistake?” Tapper asked.
“That’s what I’m saying. That’s exactly what I’m saying,” Sanders said.
“Here was a proposal, much, much larger. Democrats said, ‘No, that’s not good enough,’” he continued.
Lawmakers are trying to pass another coronavirus stimulus bill in the remaining weeks before the Christmas break but have yet to reach an agreement after more than eight months of gridlock.
Democrats have been unwilling to shift from their demand of $2.2 trillion in relief and have rejected two smaller proposals from Senate Republicans which would have included more targeted relief for small businesses.
Months of negotiations between Pelosi (D. Calif) and White House point person Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin also failed to yield a break-through, causing Trump to accuse Pelosi of “not negotiating in good faith.”
Sanders and GOP Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri have both threatened to block any aid package which does not include another round of popular $1,200 stimulus checks.
According to Politico, Hawley, who is eyeing a 2024 presidential bid, has been lobbying Trump not to sign-off on a relief deal which does not include the direct cash payments for Americans.
“I said, ‘I think it’s vital that any relief include direct payments, and I’m not gonna vote for it if it doesn’t.’ And I also urged him to veto any bill that did not have direct payments in it,” Hawley told the publication, adding Trump was “receptive” to the idea.
Sanders also told Tapper that it was unacceptable for another package to pass Congress without stimulus checks.
“We are, right now, in the worst economic shape since the Great Depression, and this proposal does not include that $1,200 direct payment per individual and $500 for kids that we desperately need in order to put working families back on their feet,” he said.
“It would be a real help. We don’t have it and I’m going to fight to see we get that included,” he added.
The $908 billion package presented by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle last week would include a $300-per-week boost to unemployment, down for $600 at the peak of the pandemic.
It would also add $288 billion in new small-business Paycheck Protection Program forgivable loans and provide $45 billion for airlines and struggling mass-transit systems.
An estimated 12 million people face loss of unemployment benefits by Dec. 26 if Congress is unable to come to an agreement before then.
Many businesses also face another round of lockdowns as infection and hospitalization rates rise in cities like New York.