Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont blasted the warped priorities of the U.S. Senate on Wednesday as the Democratic-controlled chamber moved to advance legislation that he warned would provide a $53 billion “blank check” to the profitable microchip industry under the guise of promoting innovation, domestic manufacturing, and job creation.
“We have strange priorities here in the Senate,” Sanders, the chair of the Senate Budget Committee, said in floor remarks. “We can’t extend the child tax credit to combat child poverty. We can’t deal with the crisis in child care. We can’t provide dental care to seniors on Medicare. We can’t deal with climate change.”
“But somehow,” the senator added, “we can provide a massive amount of corporate welfare to a handful of corporations.”
Sanders’ comments came as the Senate began holding votes on dozens of motions related to the COMPETES Act, which is currently in conference committee as the House and Senate reconcile their differences on the legislation before final passage. The motions are aimed at instructing the conferees’ work on the bill.
In recent weeks, Sanders has vocally warned on the Senate floor and in the pages of major newspapers that the measure in its current form would do nothing to prevent taxpayer funding from going to large corporations that bust unions, outsource U.S. jobs, and buy back their own stock.
The Vermont senator has specifically targeted a provision that would authorize an additional $10 billion in NASA funding for moon landers, money that could wind up benefiting billionaire Jeff Bezos’ space flight company Blue Origin.
“Clearly, Mr. Bezos desperately needs this federal assistance,” the Vermont senator said sarcastically. “He is only worth $150 billion.”
On Wednesday, Sanders introduced motions that would attach a number of safeguards to the legislation’s funding and cut the $10 billion NASA provision.
“At a time when 70 million are uninsured, when 600,000 people are homeless in this country, while we are seeing a growing gap between the very rich and everybody else,” Sanders said, “it does not make a lot of sense to give $10 billion to the second-wealthiest person in this country.”
By overwhelming margins—6-87 and 17-78—the Senate voted down both of Sanders’ proposals while approving several Republican-led motions unrelated to the bill’s core objectives, including one that would instruct conferees to prohibit President Joe Biden from lifting the terrorism designation on Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
The Senate’s votes came days after the leak of a draft opinion signaling that the Supreme Court’s right-wing majority is set to overturn Roe v. Wade, imperiling abortion rights and more across the country.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has vowed to hold another vote on the Women’s Health Protection Act, House-passed legislation that would codify the right to abortion care into federal law. But the bill will fail again as long as Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) continues to oppose it and the 60-vote filibuster remains intact—thanks in large part to Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.).
“Congress must pass legislation that codifies Roe v. Wade as the law of the land in this country NOW,” Sanders tweeted late Monday. “And if there aren’t 60 votes in the Senate to do it, and there are not, we must end the filibuster to pass it with 50 votes.”