Speaking to MSNBC, Sanders said that the U.S. is “in the worst moment in American history, maybe since the Civil War.”
“We are in a terrible, terrible moment,” the senator began. “People are hurting in a way that we have never ever seen in our lifetimes.” He then blasted President Donald Trump’s handling of the crises caused by COVID-19.
“And to top it all, we have someone so irresponsible, so not understanding the current reality as president of the United States that it is just incredibly painful.”
Sanders’ remarks come amid ongoing discussions about reopening the economy. Some states have decided to prolong social distancing and lockdown measures, but others have begun slowly reopening their economies. According to the senator, the government’s top priority needs to be working families.
The former presidential hopeful has called for monthly $2,000 payments to every American until the COVID-19 crisis is solved. Key Senate Democrats have endorsed similar proposals. Notably, Democratic senators Kamala Harris of California and Ed Markey of Massachusetts have expressed support for Sanders’ plan.
However, congressional Republicans have argued that stimulus payments should not be included in the next coronavirus relief package. On Friday, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow poured cold water on the talks, saying that such negotiations will be paused until June. According to Kudlow, lawmakers and the White House need more time to “evaluate” the proposals.
Sanders described Kudlow’s comments as “callous,” adding that he and his allies in Congress will do all they can to help ordinary Americans.
“I — and I know many other senators and members of the House — will fight like hell to make sure we act and act as soon as possible, because the American people are hurting,” he said.
The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated the economy. Per The Washington Post, the Department of Labor announced Friday that the U.S. unemployment rate jumped to 14.7 percent in April, reaching the highest level since the Great Depression of the 1930s. More than 20 million Americans lost their jobs last month.
Trump has insisted that the American economy needs to reopen as soon as possible. During a meeting with congressional Republicans on Friday, the commander-in-chief argued that some Democratic politicians want to maintain the lockdowns in order to hurt his chances of winning the 2020 presidential election.
In November, Trump is presumed to face off against former Vice President Joe Biden, whom Sanders has endorsed.