Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) twice on Friday objected to a vote on a standalone stimulus check bill introduced last week by Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).
Hawley and Sanders both tried to put the proposal up for an up-and-down vote on a second round of $1,200 stimulus checks on Friday, as Democratic and Republican leaders try to finalize a larger stimulus deal that includes smaller direct payments of around $600-$700 per person.
“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 said from the Senate floor earlier on Friday. “It's the least that we can do. It should be the first thing to do.”
Johnson objected to the vote. Under Senate rules, one senator objecting to Hawley’s motion, which required unanimous consent, is enough to block the vote from moving forward.
The Wisconsin senator cited rising deficit concerns and criticized Hawley and Sander’s bill for repeating stimulus checks under the CARES Act, which were sent out when the job market was in worse shape. Millions of jobs have since recovered, he noted.
Under the CARES Act, around 160 million Americans received a stimulus payment, totaling over $270 billion out of the $2.2 trillion relief package passed in March.
“Anything we consider for this additional package [...] ought to be far more targeted,” Johnson said from the Senate floor on Friday. “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.”
Sanders also tried to put the proposal up for a vote later in the day.
“Let us pass legislation, which includes $1,200 direct payments to working-class families,” Sanders said from the Senate floor on Friday afternoon. “And certainly not taking a nickel away from unemployment and the other important provisions that are currently being negotiated.”
Johnson objected to the vote again, quoting deficit concerns and improving labor market conditions.
‘These are survival checks.’
Sanders and Hawley introduced the Emergency Direct Payments for Families and Workers Act to propose a second round of payments similar in size and eligibility criteria as the first one. Those payments were up to $1,200 per person — plus $500 for any child dependent.
Stimulus checks are one of the “major pillars” of the deal being negotiated, according to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). But this time they’ll be around $600 to $700, plus potentially the same amount per dependent, according to Sen. John Thune (R-SD).
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) who has been part of negotiating the final stimulus deal expressed support for the standalone bill for $1,200 in direct payments.
“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,” Schumer said in a tweet on Friday. “These are survival checks.”
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) has previously called for bigger payments than the suggested $600 to $700 and urged constituents to express if they’re not happy with the current proposal.
“If you don’t want your member to vote for a $600 deal, you really need to tell them that,” Ocasio-Cortez said in a tweet 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.”
If lawmakers don’t pass stimulus legislation through both chambers of Congress by the end of Friday, they would need to pass stopgap funding to keep the government open.
Without a new relief deal, up to 12 million Americans would lose unemployment benefits coverage when two programs enacted under the CARES Act expire on Dec. 26. The federal eviction moratorium, paid sick leave, aid to state and local governments, among other relief, also will lapse at the end of the year.