Dec 18, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Sen. Ron Johnson blocks Hawley bill proposing $1,200 stimulus checks

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) on Friday objected to Sen. Josh Hawley's (R-Mo.) motion to pass a bill via unanimous consent that would provide $1,200 to Americans in the form of direct stimulus checks, citing the ballooning national debt.

Why it matters: Hawley has teamed up with an unlikely partner, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), in a push to include direct payments in Congress' next coronavirus relief package, which has entered the final stages of negotiations.

  • The bill currently being discussed by congressional leaders does include direct payments, but at a size closer to $600 — half of what Sanders and Hawley have said is necessary to support working families.
  • Johnson's concerns about the size of the stimulus package, which at about $900 billion would be one of the largest in U.S. history, are shared by many Senate Republicans.

What they're saying: "We have families in need. There's no doubt about it. I completely support some kind of program targeted for small businesses so they can reemploy, so they can reopen, to restore capital," Johnson said on the Senate floor.

  • "What I fear we're going to do with this bipartisan package, and what the senator from Missouri is talking about is the same thing — a shotgun approach," he continued.
  • "We will not have learned the lessons from our very hurried, very rushed, very massive, earlier relief packages. We're just going to do more of the same, another trillion dollars. It takes our debt from $27.4 trillion to $28.4 trillion in a couple months. With doing virtually no revisions, no improvements."

The other side: "Nothing could be more targeted. No relief could be more important than relief for working people," Hawley responded after Johnson's objection.

  • "The senator is right. This body has spent trillions of dollars this year alone on COVID relief. We're getting ready to spend apparently another $1 trillion more. And yet working people are told, they may be last — if they get relief at all."

What to watch: Hawley said Sanders will be back in a "matter of hours" to attempt to pass the bill again. Both senators have said they will block an extension to government funding when it expires tonight unless direct payments are in the relief package.

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