Democrats are ridiculing a last-minute $600 billion relief package “compromise” from 10 Republican senators who say President Joe Biden‘s $1.9 trillion plan is too expensive and are arguing instead to shut out GOP lawmakers who spent months trying to overturn an election and refusing any form of “unity.”
Congressional Democrats who want quick passage Biden’s plan scoffed at a group of self-proclaimed “bipartisan” GOP senators who drafted their own last-minute “compromise” for a much smaller $600 billion package. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, chair of the Senate Budget Committee, is among several members of the new Democratic majority who say passing coronavirus relief for Americans is more important than GOP complaints about “unity.” Sanders said the 10 senators are not being “practical” but are instead using a disingenuous demand for bipartisanship in order to chip away more moderate Democrats, including Biden.
Critics of the last-minute proposal noted that several of those 10 senators were the same people who just weeks ago sought to overturn Biden’s election win and refused to hear any discussion of a second relief package over the summer. Many Democrats expressed their hope the White House will simply “ignore” the GOP compromise attempt.
Several economists and Washington strategists including Paul Krugman blasted the 10 Republicans‘ watered down proposal and sudden calls for bipartisanship. “That’s not a compromise, it would be abject surrender. Not even worth discussing,” the New York Times columnist remarked Sunday.
Michigan congresswoman Rashida Tlaib was among several Democrats who told Republicans that their proposal—which wipes out $170 billion for schools and a $15-an-hour minimum wage hike—is too little, too late. Several critics noted that when Republicans had the majority in 2020 under Mitch McConnell, they refused to even consider a second relief package for months.
“Real talk: During a global health crisis and a historic economic hardship, this is not the time to ‘compromise’ our residents. The QanonGOP jammed through tax cuts and goodies for their corporate pals. Now, let’s jam for the people. Reconciliation if they don’t want to play ball,” Tlaib tweeted Sunday.
Sanders has reiterated his willingness to either work with Republicans to meet Democratic demands or to leave them out of the vote altogether given the 51-vote Senate majority. Sanders appeared to remind MSNBC viewers Sunday that McConnell and Republicans would never offer Democrats the same “bipartisan” offer if their roles were reversed.
“When we talk about unity and bipartisanship, remember that when Republicans had control, they pushed through an almost $2 trillion program which consisted of tax breaks for the wealthiest people and the largest corporations…we’ve got to go ahead right now,” Sanders said, noting he has the power to use a budget reconciliation move which could leave Republican senators out of the vote altogether with unanimous Democratic support.
One of the 10 Republican senators seeking “unity” from Biden and Democrats is Louisiana’s Bill Cassidy. The lawmaker complained to Fox News Sunday that the White House never called him or the nine others seeking to “compromise.” The 10 Republicans argue that too much money has already been handed out during the pandemic—$4 trillion, including $900 billion passed in December. Checks to individuals for $1,400 would also be reduced significantly under the GOP proposal.
Cassidy laid out a few details of the GOP’s smaller $600 package, saying their package would decrease the $170 billion for schools because “we’ve already given them 110 percent of what they usually receive…it’s teachers’ unions telling their members not to go to work.” Democratic pushes to include the first federal hourly minimum wage raise in 12 years would also be cut from their legislation, which is set to be officially introduced Monday.
Some progressives suggested Sunday that Biden should respond to the 10 Republicans by making them publicly declare that his election win was valid. Others simply characterized the GOP as clinging to some hope they can slow down Democrat-led legislation in the name of budget cuts.
“Republicans sat on the sidelines and did nothing about Covid relief for seven months last year under Trump. Now they wait until the last day before the Democratic Congress moves legislation and they want to negotiate a new bipartisan bill,” responded political pundit Keith Boykin in a tweet.
Newsweek reached out to the White House and Sanders’ office for additional remarks Sunday evening.