U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, who as the new chairman of the Senate Budget Committee will shape the final $1.9 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill, said Sunday the $1,400 direct payments should go to Americans making $75,000 or less.
Sanders, I-Vt., rejected proposals to restrict the full payments to those making $50,000, which was part of a plan to prevent wealthier taxpayers from getting a share of the money. Under the original proposal, checks could flow to families earning $300,000 or more.
“When people said, we don’t want rich people to get that benefit, I understand that,” Sanders said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “And what we need to do is have a strong cliff, so it doesn’t kind of spill over to people making $300,000.
“But to say to a worker in Vermont or California or anyplace else that, if you’re making $52,000 a year, you are too rich to get this help, the full benefit, I think that that’s absurd.”
Sanders said the thresholds should be $75,000 for individuals and $150,000 for married couples, just as they have been in the first two rounds of stimulus checks signed into law by President Donald Trump. Those making less than $100,000 and couples making less than $200,000 got smaller payments based on income.
“It’s also, from a political point of view, a little bit absurd that you would have, under Trump, these folks getting the benefit, but, under [President Joe] Biden, who is fighting hard for the working class of this country, they would not get that full benefit,” Sanders said.
“From a political point of view, it is absurd to be telling working-class people, somebody who has a decent union job, they’re making $55,000, $60,000, sorry, you’re not eligible for the program. It makes no sense to me at all, nor do I think it makes sense to the American people.”
Congress last week passed a budget resolution to trigger a parliamentary maneuver known as reconciliation, which would prevent a Senate filibuster and allow Democrats to pass the stimulus bill without any Republican votes.
While Biden has talked about working with Republicans on the bill, U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-Louisiana, said that wasn’t the case, citing the president’s rejection of the alternative $618 billion spending package proposed by him and nine other Senate Republicans as too small.
“The administration is showing very clearly they don’t care if they have to work with us,” Cassidy said on NBC’s Meet the Press. “We come in good faith with at least 10 and more that would have joined us, and they say they don’t care. So, you got that. It takes two to tango. Right now, I’m not sure we have the two to tango.”
Senate Republicans have noted that the previous stimulus bills were passed with overwhelming bipartisan support. But that came only after GOP senators tried and failed to pass their own bills without any Democratic priorities, demanded that any legislation protect businesses from lawsuits if employees or customers were infected by COVID-19 and increase taxpayer subsidies for religious and other private schools. Republicans also did not negotiate with congressional Democrats after the House approved two trillion-dollar stimulus measures.
Biden and other Democrats have insisted on the larger number, noting that a too-small stimulus package in 2009, purposely kept lower to attract Republican support, hindered the nation’s economic recovery from the Great Recession.
Lawrence Summers, who was treasury secretary under President Barack Obama, suggested that the $1.9 trillion package could set off “inflationary pressures of a kind we have not seen in a generation.” New Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on CNN responded that his concern about inflation needed to take a back seat to worries about not spending enough money to fix the economy.
“My predecessor has indicated that there’s a chance that this will cause inflation to rise. And that’s also a risk that we have to consider,” Yellen said. “And I can tell you, we have the tools to deal with that risk if it materializes. But we face a huge economic challenge here and tremendous suffering in the country. We have got to address that. That’s the biggest risk.”
Recent studies by S&P Global and the Brookings Institution said a $1.9 trillion package would return the economy later this year to what it was before the pandemic. And Moody’s Analytics said the plan would help create 7.5 million jobs this year and another 2.5 million next year, fully recovering all the jobs lost due to the coronavirus.
The Republican alternative also left out Biden’s proposal for $350 billion in federal aid to help state and local governments pay the salaries of first responders, teachers and other public employees. That has been a top Democratic priority.
Cassidy, who last year joined with New Jersey Democrat Robert Menendez on bipartisan legislation to provide such aid, said on NBC that there was less support for the assistance this time around, considering New Jersey’s loss of revenue was just 0.5%, New York’s was 1.5% and the average drop was 0.1%.
“It’s hard to build political consensus when there’s only 0.1% revenue decline,” Cassidy said. “Some folks are going to scratch their head and say, ‘That’s not justified. Let’s think of a different way to do it.’”