Sen. Bernie Sanders on Sunday said Senate Democrats would pass a Covid-19 relief bill as soon as possible through budget reconciliation, which would allow the package to pass with a simple majority vote rather than with the support of 60 senators.
“We are going to use reconciliation, that is 50 votes in the Senate plus the vice president, to pass legislation desperately needed by working families in this country right now,” the Vermont senator told CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union” on Sunday. The new Senate stands on 50-50, with Vice President Kamala Harris as the tiebreaking vote when needed.
Bash pointed out that Sanders had previously criticized Republicans’ use of reconciliation, saying the process should not be used “to enact major changes in social policy.” But he defended the decision to use reconciliation now, stating that Americans’ need for stimulus aid is emergent, while Republicans in 2017 used reconciliation “to give tax breaks to billionaires.”
“Yes, I did criticize them for that. And if they want to criticize me for helping to feed children who are hungry or senior citizens in this country who are isolated and alone and don’t have enough food, they can criticize me,” Sanders said.
Budget reconciliation is used at times on certain tax, spending and debt limit bills to reconcile different legislation from the House and Senate — a process that effectively prevents a legislative filibuster in the Senate.
Sanders said Democrats cannot wait “weeks and weeks and months and months to go forward” on the $1.9 trillion relief package proposed by President Joe Biden, which Republicans have shown early opposition to and have vowed will not get 60 votes. When asked about the timeline for pushing the bill through, Sanders said “as soon as we possibly can.”
Sanders noted that reconciliation was used by Republicans under President Donald Trump in 2017, once in a failed attempt to repeal Obamacare, and again to pass large tax cuts.
“You did it, we’re gonna do it, but we’re gonna do it to protect ordinary people, not just the rich and the powerful,” he said.