Sen. Bernie Sanders late Wednesday blasted Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for pushing a coronavirus relief measure that contains a 100% tax deduction for business meals—a gift to corporate executives—but nothing for the tens of millions of people across the U.S. who are struggling to afford food for themselves and their families.
"Mitch McConnell's 'new' Covid relief bill gives CEOs a 100% tax deduction for a 3-martini lunch, but ZERO to the 26 million who don't have enough food to eat," the Vermont senator tweeted. "Yes. The Republicans l-o-v-e corporate socialism for the rich, rugged individualism for the rest. Ain't gonna happen."
On Tuesday, as Common Dreams reported, the Kentucky Republican began circulating a purportedly "targeted" coronavirus stimulus proposal that would grant corporations sweeping immunity from coronavirus related lawsuits without providing a federal boost to unemployment benefits, another round of direct payments, or any aid to state and local governments.
"Let's be clear about what Covid-19 'liability protections' would mean: letting corporations off the hook if they decide they care more about making a quick buck than keeping workers safe"
—Sen. Ron Wyden
The plan also omits nutrition assistance amid a worsening nationwide hunger crisis; according to Census Bureau data, 26 million U.S. adults reported in late October and early November that they did not have enough food to eat.
McConnell's proposal was immediately dismissed as a non-starter by many Democratic lawmakers, who characterized the plan as woefully inadequate to address the twin public health and economic crises ravaging the nation.
"This is an insult to the millions of workers and businesses that are losing their livelihoods because of this crisis," said Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee. "This proposal doesn't come close to giving Americans the help they desperately need to stay afloat."
With a possible government shutdown just over a week away and time running out to secure a coronavirus relief agreement before the end of the year, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Wednesday threw their support behind a new bipartisan, bicameral compromise proposal as the "basis" for negotiations.
Unlike McConnell's plan, the bipartisan proposal would provide a $300-per-week federal boost to unemployment insurance, a key lifeline that 12 million Americans are set to lose on December 26 without congressional action. The bipartisan group group of lawmakers also called for a liability shield for corporations that would reportedly be more limited than the one McConnell is pushing, though specific language has not yet been made public.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) on Wednesday was among those raising concerns about the bipartisan compromise package, specifically citing the corporate liability protections as a key sticking point.
"Let's be clear about what Covid-19 'liability protections' would mean: letting corporations off the hook if they decide they care more about making a quick buck than keeping workers safe," Warren tweeted Wednesday. "We can't let businesses escape accountability for putting people's lives at risk."