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Sanders Critiques Hypocrisy of GOP Senators Griping over Unemployment Benefits for Poor

Some Republican Senators tried last night to reduce the unemployment benefits promised to low-income workers by the pending 2.2-trillion-dollar coronavirus relief bill. Senators Ben Sasse, Rick Scott, Tim Scott, and Lindsey Graham said that giving laid-off workers an additional $600 a week on top of the normal benefit could discourage them from working:

…the GOP senators argued that the agreement, which they’ve called a “drafting error,” could prompt individuals who earn less while working compared to the unemployment benefits to quit their jobs or not return to work.

“Something hit me like a ton of bricks … Under this bill you get $23.15 an hour based on a 40-hour work week not to work,” Graham said from the Senate floor on Wednesday night. “We’ve created Pandora’s box for our economy”  [Jordain Carney, “Senate Rejects GOP Attempt to Change Unemployment Benefit in Coronavirus Stimulus Bill,” The Hill, 2020.03.25].

A Democratic aide told Roll Call that the $600 benefit is no drafting error:

But a Senate Finance Committee Democratic aide not authorized to speak on the record about the issue said trying to limit a benefit increase to a worker’s full salary presented logistical problems. “The administration made clear that state unemployment offices did not have the technological capability to calculate wage replacement on an individual basis, which is how we came to the bipartisan agreement on a $600 increase per week in benefits,” the aide said [David Lerman, “Unemployment Insurance Provision Hangs Up Coronavirus Relief Package,” Roll Call, 2020.03.25 ].

Senator Bernie Sanders took the floor last night to ridicule the Republican concern over handing extra money to low-income people. The junior Senator for Vermont opens with comments against more corporate welfare, then really goes to town on the unemployment-check grumblers at 3:45:

Senator Sanders issued the same critique of Republican anti-worker busybodyism on CNN:

“Here we are in the midst of the worst economic downturn perhaps since the Great Depression, tens of millions of people are worried to death about how they’re going to feed their families, pay their rent, prevent a foreclosure,” Sanders added. “And these guys are just staying up nights worrying about low-income workers getting a few bucks more.”

Sanders also accused the Republicans of backing corporations over workers, highlighting their support for President Donald Trump’s 2017 tax plan.

“You have all kinds of people here who voted, including Sen. Graham and the others, they voted for a trillion dollars in tax breaks for the 1% and large corporations and now they’re really worried that a low-income worker might receive extended unemployment plus $600 a week,” Sanders said.

“Oh, my goodness,” he added sarcastically. “How terrible is that?” [Caroline Kelly, “Sanders Rips GOP Senators for Voting for Tax Cuts but Objecting to Increased Unemployment Benefits,” CNN, 2020.03.25].

Imagine if we had a President who talked like that.

Maybe giving low-income Americans more money than they were making at their crappy jobs before the coronavirus shut down the economy isn’t such a bad thing. Maybe helping more Americans stay home and out of crowded workplaces for a few more weeks or months will further flatten the infection curve and save more lives. And as I say even in good fiscal times, even if you want to accept an argument that certain people don’t deserve government benefits, giving a million “undeserving” poor people an extra hundred-dollar check from Uncle Sam to buy groceries and pay rent does less damage to and more good for the economy than giving a hundred “undeserving” rich people and corporations a million-dollar check to buy back stocks and bolster their secret South Dakota trust funds.

Senator Sanders and 47 other Senators voted against the reduction of the proposed unemployment benefit, tying the 48 ayes and killing the amendment. The Senate then voted 96–0 to pass the coronavirus relief package.


  1. Eve Fisher 2020-03-26

    Sen. Lindsey Graham say that nurses are “going to make $24 an hour on unemployment” so they’ll quit their job and go on unemployment to make more money.

    Hey, Senator Graham – you don’t get unemployment if you quit your job. Only if you get laid off. So you’re wrong there. And no one is going to lay off nurses right now. (Except perhaps the White House… For Easter…)

    And how dare you insult our nurses – currently risking their lives on the front lines of COVID-19 – by saying they’re mercenaries who only/always follow the money? That’s what politicians do, not medical professionals!

  2. Clyde 2020-03-26

    Amen, Eve!
    My daughter, an Rn working in a hospital with Covid 19, was issued only ONE n95 mask and told to take very good care of it because that was the only one she was going to get.
    Meanwhile Trump is blowing about our “great country” stepping up with every thing we will need while behind the scenes begging the Chinese for more supplies.

  3. Jason 2020-03-26

    Thank you Senator Sanders!

  4. jerry 2020-03-26

    Good work Senator Sanders. Does anyone remember the republican (John McCain) and brethren, who fought against the new GI Bill by saying troops would leave the military and go to school rather than stay in? There is never a crisis that republicans do not try to screw Americans on, nurses or veterans, Sanders rightly points out now this bs like Democrats did for this now very successful program.

    “April 14, 2008 — — Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, seemed to give a thumbs down to bipartisan legislation that would greatly expand educational benefits for members of the military returning from Iraq and Afghanistan under the GI Bill.

    McCain indicated he would offer some sort of alternative to the legislation to address concerns that expanding the GI Bill could lead more members of the military to get out of the service.”

    Graham and McCain were once tight as ticks on a new dog, so this should not be a surprise that Lindsey would say that stupidity.

  5. Loren 2020-03-26

    We tend to pay congress full pay for their part-time jobs, 3-day work weeks, holiday pay, sick pay, vacation pay, hiatus pay, etc, etc, etc… Takes a lot of gall to stand there and complain about people losing incentive to work. Get elected and never “work” again. For sure, I know 3 from SD that could be laid off and the nation would never know.

  6. jerry 2020-03-26

    Cheesecake Factory is rebelling and not paying rent. We all need do the same. Face the music folks, the government has bailed out their crony businesses while the rest of us get very little.

    “The Cheesecake Factory, one of the most popular sit-down restaurant chains in the country, says it will not be able to make upcoming rent payments for any of its storefronts on April 1 because of significant loss of income due to the coronavirus crisis.

    The Calabasas Hills-based company informed all of its landlords in a letter dated March 18 (reproduced below) that a severe decline in restaurant traffic has decreased its cash flow and “inflicted a tremendous financial blow” to business. Cheesecake Factory’s affiliated restaurants, such as Rock Sugar and North Italia, will also not make April 1 rent payments.”

  7. John Kennedy Claussen, Sr., 2020-03-26

    Not only did these four Republican senators do this, but the US Chamber also lobbied the White House to not invoke the Defense Production Act.

    It is really sad, that in times like this, that some show their true colors, when it comes to the American people and the American people’s best interests both in terms of health and economics.

    No wonder we have sat back over the last forty years and watched our middle class collapse, while the wealthy become wealthier.

  8. W R Old Guy 2020-03-26

    The stimulus bill contains a $600.00 per week supplement to the unemployment benefits for up to four months. South Dakota maximum benefit is a little over $400.00 per week. The rules indicate that your SD benefit will be reduced if you receive additional income. Does the Department of Labor have the authority to waive the reduction without legislative action?

  9. Jason 2020-03-26

    I’m listening to Dylan Ratigan (former MSNBC host) explain this bailout bill. In his words …
    “America has shown the world what it is. It is a rapacious and destructive oligarchy that is funded by the taxpayer at the expense of the taxpayer. And it calls itself a democracy.”

  10. jerry 2020-03-26

    Jason, the world sees clearly and they know they now can look to China for their future.

    “America’s disengagement on the coronavirus fight is part of a broader retreat from the world. From the Paris climate change accord to multiple trade agreements, the Trump administration has unwound decades of U.S. leadership on a range of issues.

    But such is the severity of this crisis that America’s absence could permanently impact its standing, ceding ground to an ascendant China in the great game of global influence, analysts said.

    “I do wonder whether this really is an inflection point in the international system,” said Nathalie Tocci, the head of the Italian Institute of International Affairs and a former foreign policy adviser to senior European Union leaders.

    “Here in Italy it is going to change for good the perception of who is leading in the world, and it’s not the United States,” she said. “It’s so strong what is happening. It’s so powerful and it’s so traumatic. The emotions that it ignites today are going to be engraved in the national narrative.” Washington Post 3.26.20

    We are no longer America, we are 50 states that have to fend for themselves. Let the Balkanization begin so we can decide what country we want to be aligned with, Canada for the Dakotas, but I think I would move East to be part of the European Union.

  11. Eve Fisher 2020-03-26

    February 26: “The 15 (cases in the US) within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero.”
    March 26: The United States has more cases of COVID-19 than any other country in the world: 81,321 and counting.
    That didn’t take long, did it?

    An incompetent administration appointed for loyalty not knowledge, a President interested only in his own reelection, and a Congress that did nothing to stop them. That worked out about the way I thought it would.

  12. Debbo 2020-03-26

    A bit of good news is that the SEIU found 39 million N95 masks and immediately began distributing them to hospitals. Thankful for unions!

  13. Scott 2020-03-26

    Is there anything is this relief bill to quickly retrain people for new jobs?

    Get people CDL training so they can drive trucks. Train CNA and EMT. All these type of jobs are in high demand and the training is not that long.

    Get people trained to be lab techs, X-ray techs, paramedics, respiratory therapists, medical repair equipment technician, and nurses. This takes from months to years, but these people will be in high demand.

    I’m sure more law officers and firefighters will be need in the near future, so get training programs going for these type of careers.

    I’m sure all Trump cared about was getting money to businesses like the cruise and airlines, so his investments would be protected.

  14. Caleb Evenson 2020-03-26

    Senators don’t need gall to say things like Graham said. They need only know that millions of people will think them sincere, and agree, when they say such things.

    If you haven’t read the Powell Memo that Jason linked, please do – it’s one of the most pivotal documents in history, so far as I can tell.

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