Passing coronavirus relief more important than bipartisanship: Sen. Bernie Sanders

"We have got to act and we have to act now," Sanders said on ABC's "This Week."

January 31, 2021, 11:53 AM

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., the incoming chair of the Senate Budget Committee, said Sunday that every member of Congress wants bipartisanship, but the urgent need for coronavirus relief is more pressing.

"We all want bipartisanship and I think you're gonna see more of it as we move down the pike," Sanders told ABC's "This Week" Co-anchor Martha Raddatz. "We all look forward to working with Republicans. But right now, this country faces an unprecedented set of crises."

"We have got to act and we have to act now," Sanders added.

On the campaign trail, Joe Biden predicted the Republican Party would have an "epiphany" once President Donald Trump was out of the White House. President Biden has been adamant about a bipartisan approach to lawmaking, signaling that he felt Republicans would be willing to work with him, but he appears to be moving away from those demands when it comes to coronavirus negotiations.

"I support passing COVID relief, with support from Republicans if we can get it. But the COVID relief has to pass. There's no ifs, ands or buts," Biden said Friday.

Raddatz asked Sanders about the new willingness to abandon bipartisan negotiations on coronavirus relief, noting that a team of 10 GOP senators sent Biden a letter Sunday morning signaling a counter-plan which meets many of Biden's demands.

"Martha, the issue is not bipartisanship or not," Sanders replied. "I don't care what anybody says, we have got to deal with this pandemic. We have got to make sure that we are producing the vaccines that we need and get those vaccines into the arms of people."

"If Republicans want to work with us, they have better ideas on how to address those crises, that's great, but to be honest with you, I have not yet heard that," he added.

Sanders is pushing for a Senate resolution to unlock the upper chamber's reconciliation power, which would allow the coronavirus relief package to pass with a simple majority. The option has been floated as a potential vehicle for passing Biden's $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill, the size of which some Republicans and moderate Democrats expressed concern over.

Raddatz pushed Sanders on whether the party has enough votes to pass a relief package through his reconciliation proposal.

"I believe that we do, because it's hard for me to imagine any Democrat -- no matter what state he or she may come from -- who doesn't understand the need to go forward right now in an aggressive way to protect the working families of this country," Sanders said.

Referring to Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin's comments indicating that he was steadfast in demanding a bipartisan approach, Raddatz asked Sanders if he was still confident.

"Yep, I am absolutely confident. I'll tell you why. Joe Manchin is a chairman, I'm a chairman. Democrats have a majority because of the fact that we won two seats with great candidates in Georgia," Sanders said. "But that campaign in many ways was a national campaign. ... The entire Democratic Party came together behind the candidates and Georgia. We made promises to the American people."

Separately, Republicans have been dealing with backlash over comments from Georgia freshman Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene.

CNN's KFile, in a report on her online activity, said Greene allegedly "liked" a comment on her Facebook page in 2019 that threatened House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's life and other Democrats. ABC News cannot confirm the "likes" because the posts have been deleted.

Greene was also recently assigned to the House Education and Labor Committee despite her support of conspiracy theories claiming mass school shootings at Sandy Hook and Parkland were staged.

Raddatz asked Sanders if she was fit to hold office and to have a spot on that committee.

"The idea that you're talking about, members of the U.S. House of Representatives are talking about violence. That is -- it is almost beyond comprehension and I think this is something that the Republican Party has got to deal with," Sanders said.

He also said the party could be one which believes democracy or one which slips into authoritarianism based on lies and conspiracies.

"I'm not going to give the Republicans advice -- they don't want my advice, but ultimately they will continue being a conservative party that believes in democracy or an authoritarian party based on big lies, conspiracy theories, and in fact, a movement toward violence. And I hope Republicans make the right decision and come down on the side of democracy," he added.

Sanders also commented on bipartisan outrage over Robinhood's decision to abruptly stop transactions of GameStop stock following the company's Reddit-inspired rise.

"I have long believed that the business model of Wall Street is flawed. I think we have to take a very hard look at the kind of illegal activities and outrageous behavior on the part of the hedge funds and other the Wall Street players," Sanders said.