Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) criticized congressional Republicans on MSNBC's “The Ed Show” Friday, calling them hypocritical for refusing to extend emergency unemployment benefits, even though they did so five times during the Bush administration.
“I think there’s just an enormous amount of politics here,” Sanders told host Ed Schultz. “When Bush was president, Republicans voted for five extensions of emergency unemployment without any offsets. That was when Bush was president. Obama is president, it becomes a different story.”
Sanders also accused the GOP of legislating without empathy for the 1.3 million American workers who lost their long-term unemployment insurance in December.
“What these guys want to do is pretend, I believe, that they’re concerned about these 1.3 million workers,” Sanders said. “What it means in terms of rent, or a cell phone, or your ability to get a job. That is something our Republican colleagues are not thinking about at all.”
"So what they are talking about now are quote unquote offsets," he continued. "Not under Bush, but now they want it under Obama, and what these offsets will be is taking money from Peter to help pay Paul. What they want to do is cut the Affordable Care Act. They want to cut health insurance. These guys have been vicious about cutting food stamps. They want to cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. They want to cut any and all programs which benefit the working families of our country. That’s what they want to do now. That’s what they’ve always wanted to do."
Gene Sperling, director of the National Economic Council, echoed these sentiments at last Tuesday’s White House press conference, saying there was no precedent for House Republicans’ demand that an extension in unemployment insurance be paid for by spending cuts.
“Fourteen of the last 17 times in 20 years that it’s been extended, there’s been no strings attached,” Sperling told reporters. “All five times -- all five times that the previous President Bush extended emergency unemployment benefits, there was no pay-for strings attached and the unemployment rate was lower each of those five times than it is today.”
A staunch advocate for expanding government programs like Social Security and Medicare, Sanders proposed raising revenue by closing tax loopholes for American corporations instead of stifling existing social programs.
“When one out of four corporations in this country, including some very very wealthy ones, and profitable ones, don’t pay a nickel in federal income taxes, you think we can raise some revenue there?” Sanders asked Schultz. “Do you think we can raise revenue when we’re losing a hundred billion every year because corporate America is stashing their money in the Cayman Islands?”
Sanders warned congressional Republicans that “they’re going to be hurt politically ... if they don’t help these 1.3 million Americans.”