Bernie Stands Up For Working People … Again

The Senate’s coronavirus relief bill benefits corporations more than working people. It’s essentially a $6 trillion bailout package primarily designed to salvage important (and not so important) industries. The government is taking no stake in companies, providing a bare minimum in cash assistance, and even sought to strip unemployment benefits from working Americans.

Until Bernie Sanders stepped in.

The result was peak Bernie. Sanders, after threatening to hold up the bill over unemployment protections, ripped into Senate Republicans Wednesday night, directly calling out their hypocrisy. Several prominent GOP senators have claimed the bill’s unemployment benefits would incentivize some people not to work. “Imagine that,” Sanders exclaimed, “someone making 12 bucks an hour … might be making a few bucks more for a few months. Oh my word! Will the universe survive?”

The Vermont senator then ripped into Republicans for refusing to raise the minimum wage—the clearest explanation of why government benefits under the coronavirus relief bill pay more than low-wage jobs. “Some of my Republican friends still have not given up on the need to punish the poor and working people,” Sanders said. “You haven’t raised the minimum wage in 10 years!”

And Sanders’ threat worked.

For many, Sanders’ diatribe against Senate Republicans was refreshing. He’s at his best when on the attack, calling out obvious corruption and fighting for the people he’s fought for his entire career. For Sanders supporters, the speech was vindication—proof of what Sanders is capable of as a legislator and orator. And for low-wage workers who will rely on the relief bill’s benefits, Sanders’ actions meant even more.

The coronavirus relief bill still has major issues. It’s far too friendly to corporate America and not nearly generous enough to working Americans. Such compromises are unfortunately inevitable in a system that prioritizes market values over human lives. But when Republicans tried to gut even more humanity out of it, Sanders was there to fight back.