Related video: Bernie Sanders urges Congress support larger Covid-19 relief checks during strained debates in early December

Bernie Sanders vows to block defense bill to force Senate vote on $2,000 payments

Vermont senator says: ‘If Senator McConnell doesn’t agree to an up or down vote to provide the working people of our country a $2,000 direct payment, Congress will not be going home for New Year’s Eve. Let’s do our job’

Alex Woodward
New York
Tuesday 29 December 2020 15:01

Following House passage of a measure to increase the size of coronavirus relief payments from $600 to $2,000 per person, Bernie Sanders has pledged to bring the bill up for a vote in the Republican-dominated Senate, which has objected to previous attempts to boost the size of direct payments during the Covid-19 pandemic.

After passing the stimulus raise, the House voted to override the National Defense Authorization Act on Monday night.

The Vermont senator has vowed to block what Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has intended to be a swift vote on Tuesday to override Donald Trump’s veto of the $740bn defence spending bill, once again pitting austerity-driven Republicans against the president’s demands and forcing senators to remain in Washington DC through New Year’s Day.

“This week on the Senate floor Mitch McConnell wants to vote to override Trump’s veto … and then head home for the New Year,” the progressive senator and former presidential candidate said in a statement following the House vote on Monday.

“I’m going to object until we get a vote on legislation to provide a $2,000 direct payment to the working class," he said.  "Let me be clear: If Senator McConnell doesn’t agree to an up or down vote to provide the working people of our country a $2,000 direct payment, Congress will not be going home for New Year’s Eve. Let’s do our job.”

On Sunday, the president signed a $900bn coronavirus aid package and omnibus government spending bill, after nearly a week of delays, which threatened to lapse federal unemployment benefits for millions of people, which expired on 26 December, with a with a federal moratorium on evictions expiring on New Year’s Eve.

Despite his own administration negotiating the terms and scope of the package and bipartisan passage in Congress, the president told lawmakers to increase the size of one-time direct payments from $600 to $2,000, upending negotiations with his congressional allies who have repeatedly blocked Democratic lawmakers’ proposals for larger checks.

On Sunday night, signalling his signature on legislation is conditional on his other demands, the president insisted that the Senate will “start the process for a vote that increases checks to $2,000, repeals Section 230, and starts an investigation into voter fraud."

He said in a statement on Sunday night: "Big Tech must not get protections of Section 230! Voter Fraud must be fixed! Much more money is coming. I will never give up my fight for the American people!"

Democrats sought to leverage the president’s 11th-hour objections; House Speaker Nancy Pelosi fast-tracked a vote on Monday requiring a two-thirds majority in the House. The measure passed by a narrow vote of 275-134. 

But Senator McConnell has not revealed how he intends to roll out the president’s demands and the House legislation in his GOP-controlled chamber.

At least one Democratic senator, Ed Markey of Massachusetts, will join Senator Sanders.

“That relief passed in the House … with 44 Republicans voting for it,” he said. “Senate Republicans must do the same and get the American people the help they need.”

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