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Sen. Bernie Sanders on Sunday led progressive lawmakers in condemning President Donald Trump’s refusal to approve a $900 billion Covid-19 relief and spending bill as unemployment coverage expired for millions of Americans on Saturday night as a result of his intransigence.
Millions lost unemployment benefits today, millions more fear losing their homes… Food lines are growing longer. Trump is in [a] luxury resort, perfecting [the] art of cruelty and chaos.”
—Rep. Pramila Jayapal
“What the president is doing right now is unbelievably cruel,” Sanders (I-Vt.) said during an appearance on ABC‘s “This Week” Sunday morning. “Many millions of people are losing their extended unemployment benefits. They’re going to be evicted from their apartments because the eviction moratorium is ending.”
Although Congress on Monday approved a compromise relief bill that would have temporarily averted catastrophic expiration of critical unemployment and other benefits—including an extension of the federal eviction moratorium—during the deadliest period of the pandemic, Trump declined to sign the measure into law, blasting its $600 direct payments to Americans as “a disgrace” and calling for $2,000 stimulus checks instead.
Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.)—one of only two House Democrats to vote against the bill—also called its $600 payment “woefully inadequate.”
“I have watched as many of my colleagues rush to provide billions to corporations and wealthy individuals, while admonishing the needs of the majority of families,” Tlaib explained on Monday. “Republicans continue to do all they can do to poison our society further with corporate greed, while abandoning the very people they are supposed to be working for.”
“This is evident by the inclusion of the ‘three martini lunch’ tax giveaway,” she added, referring to a tax deduction for business meals included in the bill.
However, Sanders on Sunday argued that the “terrible economic crisis facing this country” makes action imperative.
“We are looking at a way to get the vaccine distributed to tens of millions of people,” Sanders said, referring to the massive nationwide effort to distribute Covid-19 vaccines. “There’s money in that bill.”
Progressive lawmakers from across the country joined Sanders in urging the relief bill’s passage.
“Here we are with people living on the edge as a result of this pandemic, and [Trump] is playing with their lives and their livelihoods,” said Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) during a Saturday interview on MSNBC. “People can’t afford to live life on the edge… Eight million more people have fallen below the poverty line.”
President-elect Joe Biden joined the chorus of bipartisan voices calling on Trump to sign the bill.
“It is the day after Christmas, and millions of families don’t know if they’ll be able to make ends meet because of President Donald Trump’s refusal to sign an economic relief bill approved by Congress with an overwhelming and bipartisan majority,” Biden said in a statement on Saturday.
Trump remained defiant following the expiration of jobless benefits.
“I simply want to get our great people $2,000, rather than the measly $600 that is now in the bill,” he tweeted. “Also, stop the billions of dollars in ‘pork.’”
While the president golfed, Americans suffered. Lanetris Haines, a self-employed single mother of three in South Bend, Indiana, braced for the loss of her $129 weekly lifeline.
“It’s a chess game, and we’re all pawns,” Haines told the Associated Press.