On Thursday, Vermont independent Bernie Sanders and Missouri Republican Josh Hawley came together in the Senate to demand a second round of $1,200 coronavirus relief checks, a rare point of agreement between the nation’s foremost progressive senator and its foremost faux-populist. Their proposal would provide a second check to individuals who make up to $75,000, double what Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin is pushing for. The senators want to force a vote on their proposal as part of the stopgap spending bill that must pass through Congress by Friday to prevent a government shutdown, or as part of larger negotiations on COVID stimulus legislation.
“My view is that we want a vote on this one way or another, before we leave town,” Hawley told reporters, referencing the upcoming congressional recess scheduled. “At the very least,” Sanders added, while condemning lawmakers for their inaction on new aid measures while working Americans buckle under the economic pressure of a pandemic that has left one in 10 families with young children unable to buy enough food. “They look to Washington and they say, ‘Do you know we exist, or are you just worried about your rich friends?’” Perhaps because he was in mixed political company, Sanders did not mention that the leader of Hawley’s party spent months ignoring, then obstructing the prospect of a second stimulus act to follow up the $2.2 trillion CARES Act passed in March.
But with the nation facing a nightmare season of public-health and economic crises, Senate leadership and the White House are now rushing to hammer out a stimulus package before some 12 million Americans lose unemployment benefits on December 26. The current proposal from the White House is a $916 billion package involving $320 billion for aid to businesses; $160 billion in aide for state and local governments; $150 billion for unemployment insurance; $30 billion for airlines; and $16 billion for vaccine distribution and testing. Hawley, for one, said this week that direct relief is “vital” and that he has urged Trump to “veto any bill that did not have direct payments in it.”