- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 26, 2020

While the political jockeying gets more attention, candidates in the 2020 Democratic presidential race are advancing serious policy proposals. The Washington Times takes a weekly look at how the candidates’ proposals stack up against each other.

All eyes were on the $2.2 trillion financial rescue package making its way through Congress this week.

Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden and Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont both said that proper oversight will be needed and that more needs to be done, but they offered different policy prescriptions for how to move the country forward amid the unprecedented coronavirus crisis.

Joseph R. Biden

Mr. Biden, who had hoped for quick passage of the $2.2 trillion economic rescue package, on Thursday laid out a series of emergency steps he would take to try to make sure the money is going where it’s supposed to be going.

Mr. Biden called the congressional package a “very important step” but said there is more he would do if elected president.

“It would be catastrophic to reopen everything without a plan and then have a spike in cases and shut it back down,” he said.

Mr. Biden has been talking to media and cutting videos from his Wilmington, Delaware, home as the coronavirus has ground traditional political campaigning to a halt.

He said he would establish a task force that reports directly to him to track all the spending and touted his oversight of the implementation of the post-2008 economic recovery act.

Mr. Biden also said he would call in major banks and tell them to get the small business loans in the stimulus package out the door.

“If they don’t make small business a priority, I would seek authority … to make sure they had to do that,” he said.

For larger corporations seeking taxpayer money, Mr. Biden’s campaign said he would hold the line on banning stock buybacks and pay raises for executives.

He also said he wants to build on the current deal with proposals such as forgiving at least $10,000 of federal student loans per person, increasing Social Security checks by $200 per month, and providing emergency paid sick leave for everyone who needs it, including those in the gig economy and the self-employed.

“This was a very good start, but more has to be done,” he said. “Congress is doing its job. The president has to do his now. This is all about implementation, priorities, detail, accountability. Do it now.”

Bernard Sanders

Mr. Sanders on Thursday said he reluctantly voted for the package because people across the country are hurting, but that he remains deeply concerned about its implementation as well as a special fund for corporations that he predicted President Trump would try to exploit.

“I think you have a president who is fundamentally dishonest, who is corrupt, and we have now given him $500 billion to play with, with not enough oversight,” Mr. Sanders said on WAMU radio’s “1A” program. “That is the most dangerous part of this whole bill.”

Democrats have derided the $500 billion in loans for distressed corporations as a “slush fund,” though they touted that they managed to secure additional oversight in the negotiations. Republicans say they never objected to the structure of the oversight and that Democrats were seeking to claim additional powers tied to the administration’s coronavirus response.

Mr. Sanders also said some of his “anti-worker” Republican colleagues wanted to prevent some workers from receiving the additional $600 per week in unemployment benefits provided for in the bill on top of their current benefits, which are generally set by the states.

Several Republican senators had raised last-minute objections, saying that the provision might make it more lucrative for many Americans to go on unemployment rather than try to hold onto their current jobs.

Mr. Sanders on Wednesday had threatened to block speedy passage of the bill to secure additional oversight over the $500 billion fund if the GOP senators didn’t drop their objections.

He mocked the Republican viewpoint in a floor speech Wednesday.

“Oh my God — the universe is collapsing. Imagine that,” he said. “Somebody [who’s] making 12 bucks an hour now, like the rest of us, faces an unprecedented economic crisis…might be making a few bucks more for four months. Oh my word! Will the universe survive?”

Mr. Sanders also called for $2,000 checks to go out to Americans each month for the duration of the crisis. The bill calls for one-time checks of at least $1,200 to go out to millions of Americans.

He said there will likely be another major piece of legislation in the coming weeks or months.

“I have very little doubt that while this is a start, we’re going to have to come back and address the needs of working people in a far more substantial way,” he said Thursday.

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