Sanders is disappointed with stimulus package, but votes for it

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(Host intro) Senator Bernie Sanders says he’s disappointed with the economic stimulus package that was adopted by Congress late last night because the legislation doesn’t address some of the most pressing needs facing the country.

But Sanders says he voted for the plan because it’s a good first step to strengthen the national economy.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) When the stimulus package passed the House several weeks ago, a group of senators, including Bernie Sanders, said the plan didn’t go far enough to stimulate the economy.

The House bill primarily provided rebates to low- and middle-income people and it expanded a number of business tax credits.

Sanders urged his colleagues to broaden the scope of the bill by including provisions that would extend unemployment benefits, provide more money for low-income heating assistance programs and dramatically increase spending for transportation infrastructure projects.

Most Senate Republicans refused to go along with this approach because, they argued, it was too costly. So a compromise was reached that expanded the rebate program to include roughly 20 million Social Security recipients and a quarter of a million disabled veterans.

Speaking on VPR’s Vermont Edition, Sanders says he views the bill as just a starting point:

(Sanders) "I am disappointed that we did not do more because our economy today is in serious trouble. People are struggling hard to keep their heads above water and we should have done a better job. I will do my best to bring forth comprehensively, or one by one, some of the elements of the Senate bill that were rejected by the Republican leadership."

(Kinzel) The legislation begins to phase out the rebate program for individuals with incomes above $75,000 and couples with incomes above $150,000. Sanders says this policy makes sense.

(Sanders) "In the beginning of a recession, how do you stimulate the economy. Do you give tax breaks to billionaires? I don’t think so. What the economists tell us is you give tax breaks. Put money in the hands of those people who need it the most. Those people who are going to spend the money as quickly as possible. Obviously those are lower income people. Those are middle income people — not upper income people."

(Kinzel) Under this new law, people who didn’t pay any federal income taxes last year will receive a $300 rebate. Individuals who did have a federal tax liability will receive a $600 check and couples will get a $1,200 rebate. In addition, families will be eligible to receive an additional $300 for each of their children.

(Kinzel) The IRS says it hopes to send the rebate checks out by the beginning of May.

For VPR News, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier

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