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Establishment Rejects Hawley and Sanders’ Checks Proposal

The unlikeliest of duos forged ahead to provide stimulus checks to American workers. The usual culprits stood in their way.

This week, Senators Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) sought to provide a second round of stimulus checks by unanimous consent. The bipartisan legislation would’ve provided $1,200 checks to individuals and $2,400 checks to couples, as well as $500 per child. Though hailed by the media, the public, and perhaps even President Trump, the proposal would take only one objection to kill.

Friday afternoon, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wi.) dealt the fateful blow. The bill failed.

“I would like to work with anybody to get the relief flowing as quickly as possible to those who need it,” Johnson said Friday. Still, he contended the one-time payment was “not good economic stimulus,” but a “shotgun approach” that failed to “target the dollars to people who really need it.” Under the legislation, only individuals making $75,000 or less and couples making $150,000 or less would’ve been eligible. “Nothing could be more targeted,” Hawley responded.

The bill would’ve provided the most substantial relief to working Americans since March. Lawmakers unveiled a $908 billion economic package earlier this month that left stimulus checks out altogether, drawing the ire of leftists and conservatives alike. Though Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Ca.) eventually supported a $600 direct payment, Hawley and Sanders amounted the proposal to pittances.

“If we’re going to spend hundreds of billions on bailing out this, that, and the other, surely—surely—we could start with reasonable, modest relief to the working people in need in this nation,” Hawley said on the Senate floor Friday.

“At a time when huge corporations were making record-breaking profits, the Republican leadership here in the Senate was able to provide over a trillion dollars in tax breaks to the 1% and large corporations,” Sanders added. “But in the midst of the worst economic meltdown since the Great Depression, somehow Congress is unable to respond effectively to the needs of working families.”

Though typically opposed on policy, the senators recognized direct assistance was the foremost concern of the American public. Hawley played the firebrand of the duo, routinely advocating for the death of any legislation without a second round of stimulus checks. Sanders was publicly mum in that regard until Friday, when he pledged to object to any bill without “substantial direct payments” to working Americans. Their crusade to “put working families first” resonated with the 12 million people poised to lose unemployment benefits the day after Christmas, and the 70% of Americans who say stimulus checks are “the most important provision in the next relief bill.” Their efforts didn’t go unnoticed.

The Kansas City Star Editorial Board—no shy critic of Hawley—wrote their senator “deserves great credit” for “[taking] matters into his own hands when nearly no one else would.” Though Hawley said in February that Sanders “clearly has a taste for authoritarian governments,” the Missourian reconciled with him this week by offering to “work with anybody to take on the establishment.” Indeed, Sanders—who recently indicated support for Trump’s ambassadorial nominee to Afghanistan—is no stranger to crossing party lines.

Despite failing to advance the standalone legislation, the senators may have a lifeline in the Oval Office. After a telephone call with President Trump last week, Hawley said the President is receptive to vetoing any bill that forsakes stimulus checks. Republican leadership assured Hawley Friday night that direct payments would be included in the next bill, though it’s unclear whether it would amount to more than $600, or if it would supplant the proposed $300 per week in federal unemployment assistance. As it stands, neither Congress’ bipartisan $908 billion package, nor the White House’s $916 billion proposal, include both.

For his part in the bill’s rejection, Sen. Johnson recognizes the “suffering” of American workers, and maintains he’s “concerned with our children’s future.” Still, Johnson contends the national debt is paramount.

“[With the CARES Act], we just spent money, we just opened up the spigot and we just sent it all over the place,” he said. “…If this bipartisan deal goes through—about a trillion dollars—we’ll be $28.4 trillion in debt.”

“…The road to total national bankruptcy is paved with good intentions. I’m sure that’s true.”

Colin Martin is an editorial assistant at The American Conservative and a 2020 graduate of Boston College. Contact him on Twitter @ColinMartin98.



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