Bernie Sanders, Josh Hawley Demand Vote For Direct Payments
Sens. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and Bernie Sanders are stepping up their push to send direct cash payments to Americans reeling from the coronavirus pandemic, offering a stand-alone bill to do so, and demanding that it get a vote.
Hawley, a conservative Republican, is aligned with Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on the issue of payments. He told reporters Thursday that the bill is identical to the provisions that passed in the CARES Act back in the spring.
That included $1,200 for individuals, $2,400 for couples and $500 for each of their children.
"It’s the CARES language, which is what every single senator has already supported. There should be no, you know, fiddling about 'Oh, well, I don't know, this is different.' It's exactly what every senator’s voted for once," Hawley said.
Sanders, speaking to reporters with Hawley Thursday evening, siad it would be unconscionable for Congress to go on Christmas break with out voting to send families the money.
"I just don't know how any member of the Congress could go home to their families at a time when so many families are struggling with food, worried about the rent, worried about healthcare," Sanders said, vowing to get the payments added to the still-forming COVID relief bill or get a standalone vote.
Payments are not part of the $908 billion compromise bill that a bipartisan group of lawmakers have been hashing out. A smaller, $300 or 600 payment would be included in a $916 billion proposal offered by Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and the White House, although Democrats have not embraced that plan because it lacks unemployment assistance.
Hawley and Sanders' bill would be extremely unlikely to get a vote, since it ignores so many of the other problems that need to be addressed. But they think it could be added to either the government funding bill that must pass by Dec. 18, or to the COVID stimulus proposal that's still in the works.
They are using the deadline for government funding as leverage, though Hawley said he would not let to government shut over the demand.
Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), the Senate GOP whip, blamed Sanders for delaying a vote on a stopgap one-week funding bill already passed by the House to make it to Dec. 18.
Sanders shot back that it wasn't about him, but about people who are hurting.
"They can blame me for anything they want, but people back home, by the millions, are going to be blaming this Congress for inaction, for leaving their children to go hungry, or to get addicted. That's where the blame lies -- in the Congress," Sanders said.
Hawley said he was flexible about how the measure passes, as long as it does.
"It could be added to any compromise that may emerge. It could be added to the omnibus, but we'll see," Hawley said.
A large hurdle is cost, which would be around $300 billion.
Still, Hawley said he would try to move the bill on the Senate floor if it is not included in any other legislation.
"If the negotiators can't reach some sort of compromise, I will go to the floor next week and I'll ask for an up or down vote on that -- on direct relief to folks, and we'll just put everybody on the record," he said.
The only chance for such a vote would be as an amendment, which is unlikely. They could also seek unanimous consent to move his measure, but just one senator needs to object to stop it. They could still get an agreement from Senate leaders to allow a vote, but any one senator could object to that, as well.