In a blistering speech, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) went off on Republican lawmakers Wednesday night for attempting to prevent the Senate’s emergency coronavirus relief package from passing because it would include extra relief for the nation’s lowest-wage workers.
“Oh my word, will the universe survive?” he mocked his fellow senators as seen in a now-viral video from the Senate floor. “How absurd and wrong is that? What kind of value system is that?”
The Democratic presidential hopeful tore into objections made by four Republicans to provide laid-off workers with an extra $600 a week over the next four months, on top of what their state unemployment agencies pay.
Sanders said his Republican colleagues initially wanted to give those making the least amount of money the smallest amount of financial aid. This proposal, made by Sens. Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Ben Sasse (Neb.), Rick Scott (Fla.) and Tim Scott (S.C.), was ultimately defeated.
He noted that this proposed targeted reduction to the nation’s poorest followed the Republicans’ support for President Donald Trump’s 2017 tax plan that gave major tax breaks to billionaires and large corporations.
“Some of my Republican friends have still not given up on the need to punish the poor and working people. You haven’t raised the minimum wage in 10 years. Minimum wage should be at least 15 bucks an hour. You haven’t done that,” Sanders shouted on the Senate floor. “You’ve cut program after program after program and now, horror of horrors, for four months workers might be earning a few bucks more than they otherwise weren’t.”
You’ve cut program after program after program and now, horror of horrors, for four months workers might be earning a few bucks more than they otherwise weren’t.”
Republicans objecting to the extra relief money had argued that it would incentivize low-wage workers to quit their jobs and stop looking for work so that they could benefit from the increased unemployment money.
“I want to make sure we’re helping people get back in the workforce,” Sen. Rick Scott said on Twitter. “Bernie wants to keep everyone dependent on the government.”
The Senate’s $2.2 trillion economic rescue package ended up passing and will head next to the Democratic-controlled House, which is expected to pass it Friday.
Sanders’ opposition to the Republicans’ conditions for lower-wage Americans was initially blamed for stalling the relief package in the Senate on Wednesday. After the bill was passed, he received considerable praise on social media, with video of his fiery throwdown speech going viral and #ThankYouBernie becoming one of the top trending hashtags on Twitter.
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