Sanders threatens to hold up $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus over ‘anti-worker’ bias

Senator Bernie Sanders departs US Capitol in Washington / Free

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders says he is willing to stall the already much-delayed coronavirus stimulus plan if more restrictions are not placed on the “$500 million corporate welfare fund.”

Sanders says the “anti-worker objections” from several Republicans over proposed unemployment benefits in the bill have him ready to delay the whole process.

“Unless these Republican Senators drop their objections, I am prepared to put a hold on this bill until stronger conditions are imposed on the $500 billion corporate welfare fund,” Sanders said in a statement on Wednesday, responding to several GOP lawmakers who said the generous unemployment provisions might incentivize Americans not to work.

He added he will make sure corporations are not allowed to “lay off workers, cut wages or benefits, ship jobs overseas, or pay workers poverty wages.”

Sen. Tim Scott (R-South Carolina) is one of a handful of Republicans objecting to $600 million earmarked for Americans put out of work by the coronavirus shutdowns, on top of regular unemployment insurance payments.

“We cannot encourage people to make more money in unemployment than they do in employment,” Scott said of the provision. His colleagues Ben Sasse (R-Nebraska) and Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) have expressed similar concerns. 

“Very few people are going to turn down a $24/hour deal not to work than work for $15/hour,” Graham said. “We have incentivized people not to go back to work.”

The brewing fight between these Republicans and Sanders could lead to yet another major delay for the bill, which was blocked by Democrats on Sunday and then again on Monday, as the party sought to include some of its policy priorities unrelated to the pandemic.

The unemployment provision was among the things Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) celebrated as a victory for the Democrats. The White House also shrugged off the GOP lawmakers’ concerns, with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin saying the generous plan was included for speed and efficiency of relief, adding that he hoped there would be few abuses since most Americans prefer to keep their jobs.

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