Repurposing a phrase right-wing Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin recently used to obstruct social spending and climate legislation, Sen. Bernie Sanders on Wednesday called for a “strategic pause” in corporate welfare, referring specifically to a bill that would hand around $53 billion in subsidies to the U.S. semiconductor industry.
The bill, known as the COMPETES Act, would also authorize an additional $10 billion in federal funding for moon landers, a provision that Sanders (I-Vt.) has slammed as “a bailout to Jeff Bezos so that his company Blue Origin can launch a rocket ship to the moon.”
In a speech on the Senate floor Wednesday, the Vermont senator made the case for amendments that would attach conditions to the $53 billion in federal subsidies and strip out the $10 billion “bailout to Blue Origin.”
Politico reported last week that “since NASA chose [billionaire Elon Musk’s company] SpaceX a year ago to build its lunar lander, Blue Origin has been lobbying Congress and NASA to open the program back up for competition.”
If approved, the $10 billion in the COMPETES Act would be granted to NASA to pick a company to build a second lander.
“Let me be very clear. Mr. Bezos has enough money to buy a very beautiful $500 million yacht — looks very nice to me,” Sanders said Wednesday, pointing to a picture of the vessel.
Sanders went on to note that Bezos, the billionaire founder and executive chairman of Amazon, “has enough money to purchase a $23 million mansion with 25 bathrooms.”
“Not quite sure you need 25 bathrooms, but that’s not my business,” the senator added. “So, no, count me in as somebody who does not think that the taxpayers of this country need to provide Mr. Bezos a $10 billion bailout to fuel his space hobby.”
Sanders also urged lawmakers “not to provide $53 billion to the highly profitable micro-chip industry without protections for the American taxpayer.”
“This is not a radical idea. These exact conditions were imposed on corporations that received taxpayer assistance in the bipartisan CARES Act, which passed the Senate 96 to 0,” said Sanders, referring to a coronavirus relief package enacted in 2020. “In other words, every member of the U.S. Senate has already voted for the conditions that are in this amendment.”
The House and Senate have both passed versions of the COMPETES Act, but the two bills must be reconciled before they can reach President Joe Biden’s desk.
“One of my colleagues in the Democratic caucus has… suggested that we need to take a ‘strategic pause’ when it comes to making urgent federal investments in childcare, healthcare, education, affordable housing, paid family and medical leave, and home healthcare — policies that would substantially improve the lives of the American people,” Sanders said in his floor remarks Wednesday.
“Well, you know what I believe?” he continued. “I believe that, maybe, just maybe, the time has come to take a ‘strategic pause’ when it comes to providing tens of billions of dollars in corporate welfare to some of the most profitable corporations and wealthiest people on this planet.”