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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.

Go deeper: Weekly jobless claims rise to 885,000 as Congress nears stimulus deal

Go deeper

Jan 21, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Stalemate over filibuster freezes Congress

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell's inability to quickly strike a deal on a power-sharing agreement in the new 50-50 Congress is slowing down everything from the confirmation of President Biden's nominees to Donald Trump's impeachment trial.

Why it matters: Whatever final stance Schumer takes on the stalemate, which largely comes down to Democrats wanting to use the legislative filibuster as leverage over Republicans, will be a signal of the level of hardball we should expect Democrats to play with Republicans in the new Senate.

Updated 6 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

  1. Health: Most vulnerable Americans aren't getting enough vaccine information — Fauci says Trump administration's lack of facts on COVID "very likely" cost lives.
  2. Politics: Biden unveils "wartime" COVID strategyBiden's COVID-19 bubble.
  3. Vaccine: Florida requiring proof of residency to get vaccine — CDC extends interval between vaccine doses for exceptional cases.
  4. World: Hong Kong to put tens of thousands on lockdown as cases surge.
  5. Sports: 2021 Tokyo Olympics hang in the balance.
  6. 🎧 Podcast: Carbon Health's CEO on unsticking the vaccine bottleneck.

Trump impeachment trial to start week of Feb. 8, Schumer says

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Photo: The Washington Post via Getty

The Senate will begin former President Trump's impeachment trial the week of Feb. 8, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced Friday on the Senate floor.

The state of play: Schumer announced the schedule after reaching an agreement with Republicans. The House will transmit the article of impeachment against the former president late Monday.