Congress and the White House have been embroiled in a months-long battle over the next coronavirus stimulus bill. While Democrats, Republicans, and the Trump administration have struggled to reach a consensus on many talking points, millions of Americans wait for any federal relief to come their way.
Last week, a bipartisan coalition introduced a $908 billion package that contained key points backed by leaders from each side of the negotiations. In response, the White House introduced a $916 billion deal that left out essential provisions sought by either party. Both offers fell apart on the floor.
As lawmakers’ focus turns to a funding bill to avoid a federal shutdown, Senators Josh Hawley (R-MO) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) proposed a new amendment that would include direct payments to Americans in the next bill. For some, the partnership may seem improbable, but the senators are pressuring fellow lawmakers into making sure Americans receive aid before Congress begins its holiday recess.
“In this moment of economic crises, we have got to do everything that we can do to restore faith that this government works for ordinary people,” Sanders, who co-introduced the amendment, said during a speech on the Senate floor Thursday night. “Let us do the right thing, let us pass this amendment in a bipartisan way.”
Hawley, who describes himself as a constitutional conservative GOP member, proposed The Emergency Direct Payments for Families and Workers Act, which would provide more $1,200 stimulus payments for taxpayers. The measure, which follows similar guidelines from the CARES ACT, may also give an additional $500 for dependents. Under the CARES Act, the stimulus checks cost upwards of $270 billion.
“I’ve heard some of my colleagues say that there just isn’t enough left for working families that once we take care of our other priorities and COVID relief there just isn’t enough left to give direct assistance to individuals,” Hawley told fellow Senators during his time on the floor on Thursday evening. “I want to respectfully suggest that those priorities are exactly reversed.”
Despite Sanders’ and Hawley’s efforts, their standalone amendment will most likely fall flat if lawmakers fail to pass a comprehensive stimulus package.
Gordon Gray, the director of fiscal policy at the American Action Forum, told Yahoo Money, “My own view on Sen. Hawley’s proposal, particularly if it earns a veto threat out of the White House, is that it makes an already fraught and complicated negotiation more complicated and therefore less likely. They’re costly, and if Republicans want to hold the line on cost and find consensus with Democrats, they crowd out other priorities.”
Right now, lawmakers are continuing to keep their attention on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s $500 billion deal and the recent bipartisan offer. Democrats support the $908 bill as the basis for a stimulus package, though it doesn’t contain measures to provide more direct payments.
The White House plan, on the other hand, does include the checks, but would not provide funding for enhanced unemployment benefits — a move that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic leaders have criticized as “unacceptable.”
Sanders is joined by other leading progressive Democrats, including Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), and Ayanna Pressley (D-MA). Each has consistently pushed fellow Democrats to support more stimulus payments.
Last Friday, Sanders said in a statement that the $908 billion bipartisan offer was “unacceptable” since it “does not even do what the CARES Act did and provide, at the very least, a $1,200 direct payment to working class Americans and $500 for their kids.”
“Tens of millions of Americans living in desperation today would receive absolutely no financial help from this proposal,” he continued. “That is not acceptable.”
Meanwhile, Hawley has raised some support from other Republicans, including Senators Rob Portman (R-OH), John Cornyn (R-TX), and more. Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer have stated that Congress would include more relief in the upcoming government funding bill.
Predictions estimate that as many as 12 million unemployed Americans will lose a critical financial lifeline when the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) programs expire at the end of December. In addition, other federal protections such as eviction bans, paid sick leave, funding for local and state governments, and other aid included in the CARES Act will also end.
“We will not leave this town until we have voted, up or down, on direct relief for working people,” Hawley told Senators during his Thursday speech.
- Tsekova, Denitsa. “Stimulus Checks Amendment Co-Introduced by GOP Sen. Josh Hawley and Sen. Bernie Sanders.” Yahoo!, Yahoo!, 11 Dec. 2020, money.yahoo.com/stimulus-check-amendment-introduced-by-gop-senator-and-bernie-sanders-140945509.html.