Stimulus negotiations took a turn last Friday. Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) twice blocked a vote on a stopgap bill containing only stimulus payments that was proposed by Senators Josh Hawley (R-MO) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) last week.
According to Yahoo Money, Hawley and Sanders each attempted to put their offer up for a direct vote to get struggling Americans more $1,200 direct checks while top Congressional lawmakers continue to hammer out a broader stimulus package containing smaller payments of $600 to $700 per recipient.
“What we did back in March, that every senator voted for, $1,200 for every working individual, $2,400 for working couples, $500 bucks for kids, and dependents,” Hawley told his fellow Senators during a speech Friday morning. “It’s the least that we can do. It should be the first thing to do.”
However, Johnson rejected the vote, voicing concerns for the growing federal deficit. Senate rules dictate that even one objection is enough to prevent a vote from going to the floor. Johnson also disparaged Hawley and Sander’s proposal for reiterating direct payments provided by the CARES Act when the labor market was spiraling toward rock-bottom in the spring. The Wisconsin senator remarked that since then, the jobs market has recouped millions of jobs.
The $2.2 trillion CARES Act that Congress approved last March provided an estimated 160 million taxpayers with a stimulus check. Altogether, the unprecedented program cost more than $270 billion.
During his time on the Senate floor on Friday, Johnson noted, “Anything we consider for this additional package […] ought to be far more targeted. We are mortgaging our children’s future. I think we need to be very careful about mortgaging it further when we aren’t doing it in a targeted fashion.”
Later that afternoon, Sanders made a second attempt to vote on his and Hawley’s measure. “Let us pass legislation, which includes $1,200 direct payments to working-class families. And certainly not taking a nickel away from unemployment and the other important provisions that are currently being negotiated,” Sanders told his fellow Senators.
However, Johnson again obstructed the vote, citing deficit worries and the gradual recovery in the jobs market.
Sanders and Hawley first proposed the Emergency Direct Payments for Families and Workers Act to give Americans more direct relief, similar to the first round of stimulus checks. Under the CARES Act, qualifying Americans received $1,200 per individual, with an additional $500 for every child dependent.
According to recent comments from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), direct payments are one of the next package’s “major pillars.” Senator John Thune (R-SD) has stated these subsequent checks will likely be just $600 to $700, with dependents possibly receiving the same amount.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has joined McConnell, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin at the negotiating table during the last few weeks of talks. Schumer has shown support for Hawley and Sander’s measure and $1,200 stimulus checks.
“Millions are out of work through no fault of their own. This could mean the difference between Americans paying the rent, or not. Affording groceries, or not,” he tweeted on Friday. “These are survival checks.”
Representative Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D-NY) has also pressured her fellow legislators to provide larger payments than the proposed $600 to $700. She has also encouraged constituents to contact their representatives and express their frustration with the latest stimulus deal.
“If you don’t want your member to vote for a $600 deal, you really need to tell them that,” she tweeted on Wednesday. “If there’s an amount that’s too little, or any other red line that you want them to vote NO on, then you need to tell them that.”
Time is ticking for lawmakers to approve a new deal. If they fail to reach a consensus, they will have to support a stopgap bill to prevent a partial government shutdown. In addition, without another stimulus package, as many as 12 million workers will lose critical unemployment insurance when two CARES Act measures lapse at the end of the month.
Moreover, federal protections for homeowners and renters, paid sick leave, and funding for cash-strapped state and local governments will also expire.
- Tsekova, Denitsa. “GOP Lawmaker Twice Blocks up-or-down Vote on $1,200 Stimulus Checks.” Yahoo!, Yahoo!, 18 Dec. 2020, money.yahoo.com/gop-lawmaker-vetoes-vote-on-stimulus-check-181850053.html.