Senate should improve House coronavirus package: Sen. Bernie Sanders

The House passed $3 trillion coronavirus relief package last week.

May 17, 2020, 12:49 PM

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said that the Senate should improve a House coronavirus package spearheaded by Democratic leadership.

"Now I think what (House Speaker Nancy) Pelosi did in the house, it is significant. It is important. I have some disagreements with it, and I want to see the Senate improve on it," Sanders told ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos.

"Among other things, I happen to believe that we should go in the direction of a paycheck security process similar to what has been done in Europe, which says to every worker in America, you will continue to receive your paycheck and the other benefits which you had when you were on the job, and when this crisis is over, hopefully sooner than later, you're just going to go back to work," he added.

Sanders appeared on ABC's "This Week" days after the House passed a $3 trillion coronavirus relief package.

"I also believe that during this crisis, instead of funding the COBRA program, what we should do is make sure that all people in this country, including the 87 million who were uninsured or underinsured before the pandemic have access to health care. And you do that by allowing Medicare, to fill in the gaps for the uninsured and the underinsured," he told Stephanopoulos on Sunday.

Democratic Presidential hopeful Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks during a Bernies Back rally at Queensbridge Park, in New York City, Oct. 19, 2019.
SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The bill backed by the Democrats only secured one Republican vote and 14 Democrats voted against the measure. The legislation is widely considered unable to pass in the GOP-controlled Senate. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called it "unsalvageable" in an interview on Fox News Thursday.

"I think, Pelosi -- at least unlike the Republican leadership -- said you know what, we have terrible suffering in this country. We need to get money out to the cities and towns for the hospitals, we need to protect for the people. And I would hope that the Republicans wake up and understand the severity of the crisis that we're facing," Sanders said on "This Week."

"If you're concerned about the working class of this country, understand the extraordinary suffering -- unprecedented -- that is now taking place demands that Congress act," he added.

Sanders also took aim at President Donald Trump, saying that he believed Congress had to act because of organizational failures from the White House amid the pandemic.

"And I should say, George, that the scandal of the moment is that we don't have national policy. This is the president of the United States, we should have national policy based on science," the senator told Stephanopoulos.

"Instead we got 50 states going it alone because we don't have that national protocol based on science but Trump will blame everybody for everything, instead of dealing with the crises that we face," he added.

Since suspending his campaign for the presidency, Sanders has endorsed Trump's presumptive opponent in November, Joe Biden.

The two former opponents have set up "unity task forces," working to find common ground on policy initiatives, such as climate change and criminal justice reform.

 Despite his efforts to build party unity, Sanders has said he still has significant differences on several policy areas with the former vice president. Jeff Weaver, Sanders' former campaign senior adviser, even suggested this week in a memo that some of the senator's supporters would not end up voting for Biden.

While he did not address Weaver's memo, Sanders told Stephanopoulos he disagreed with the assessment.  "Look, I think at the end of the day, the vast majority of the people who voted for me, who supported me, will understand and do understand that Donald Trump is the most dangerous president in the modern history of this country," Sanders said. "And I think, at the end of day, they will be voting for Joe Biden," he added.

However, Sanders said getting his supporters to back Biden would not be simple.

"I think what Joe is going to have do… is to say that those working class people, say to those young people, say to those minorities, listen, I understand your situation. You know, I understand that you're graduating college with tens and tens and tens of thousands of dollars in debt. I understand that you don't have any health insurance," the senator said.

"So I think Joe and his staff understand that. I think they are going to reach out to our supporters and come up with agenda that speaks to the needs of working families, of young families, of minority communities," he added.

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