As President Biden pushes for bipartisan consensus on a sweeping relief bill that looks increasingly out of reach, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said Sunday that he believes Democrats must act on stimulus now—even if it means cutting Republicans out of the process—to deliver aid to American families, uphold campaign promises and prevent the loss of the Senate and House in 2022.
As head of the powerful Budget Committee, Sanders will be able to shepherd relief legislation through the Senate using a special process called budget reconciliation, which only requires a simple majority of votes to pass (50 Democrats plus Vice President Harris’ tie-breaking vote) rather than the 60 votes required under normal rules.
In an interview on CNN’s State of the Union, Sanders said reconciliation is the “appropriate step forward” to pass Democrats’ sweeping stimulus priorities, which include another round of stimulus checks, a further expansion of federal supplemental unemployment insurance, a major expansion of the child tax credit, rental relief, student loan relief, a $15 national minimum wage, and more.
Using reconciliation would circumvent Republican opposition and ensure Democrats’ priorities make it into law, but it could also damage Biden’s aspirations to foster bipartisanship.
Sanders said he is willing to work with Republicans on the legislation but added that lawmakers cannot “wait weeks and weeks and months to go forward.”
He warned that if Democrats cannot act quickly to deliver the relief legislation they promised in the last election cycle, the party will face severe consequences in the 2022 midterm elections.
“If [Democrats] do not respond now,” Sanders said, “I believe two years from now Republicans will say, ‘hey, you elected these guys, they did nothing, vote for us.’ And they will win.”
President Biden has said repeatedly that his first choice is not to use reconciliation but instead to craft a bipartisan bill. That strategy will require at least ten Republicans to sign on, and Biden’s economic advisors will meet with a bipartisan group of centrist senators on Sunday to drum up support for his $1.9 trillion plan. Top Senate Republicans including Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) have already voiced their concerns about the package’s price tag, especially considering the $900 billion bill President Trump signed into law less than a month ago, and provisions they view as unrelated to the coronavirus crisis.
“The idea that we need a stimulus is a little hard to understand,” Romney said in an interview on FOX News Sunday, “because I’m one of those that’s convinced that if you want to see this economy get going, we’ve got to get beyond COVID. If we get beyond COVID, I believe that the economy is going to come roaring back. And spending and borrowing trillions of dollars from the Chinese among others is not necessarily the best thing we can do to get our economy to be strong long-term.”