Bernie Sanders to the rescue!
The Vermont Senator may officially be an Independent, but he is playing a crucial role in helping Democrats force the Republican-controlled Senate to at least consider raising — in the few days remaining in their session — the paltry $600 pandemic relief check.
That was the only amount the GOP would agree to before Trump tweeted out of the blue demanding that the checks be increased to $2000 — the amount originally proposed by the Democrats — and declaring that he would refuse to sign the omnibus spending bill that authorized the payments, creating chaos as the threat of a government shutdown loomed.
Trump eventually relented and signed that bill, if not the defense spending bill passed at the same time, but his call for increased pandemic relief payments encouraged House Democrats to pass a bill yesterday upping the checks to the amount Trump claimed he would support and forcing 134 House GOP members to go on record as opposing the larger relief payments.
With Senate passage of the bill now the only thing between Americans and a $2000 payment, Senator Sanders vowed to take action to force Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to bring the legislation to a vote.
McConnell has used his control of the Senate agenda to prevent any legislation which he does not approve of from even being considered in what he considers his chamber, a tactic he’s employed frequently since the GOP took the majority in that branch of Congress.
With the congressional session about to end, however, Senator Sanders has devised a clever use of Senate rules to ensure that McConnell can’t refuse to at least have every Senator on record as supporting or opposing the push for $2000 payments, whatever the political consequences may be.
Sanders vowed yesterday to filibuster the planned vote to override Trump’s veto of the defense spending bill — a bill close to the hearts of most Republican Senators — unless McConnell brings the pandemic relief increase to a vote.
“This week on the Senate floor, Mitch McConnell wants to vote to override Trump’s veto of the $740 billion defense funding bill and then head home for the New Year,” Sanders said in a statement late Monday. “I’m going to object until we get a vote on legislation to provide a $2,000 direct payment to the working class.”
“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,” the Vermont Senator added. “Let’s do our job.”
Warren Gunnels, Bernie Sanders’ staff director, reiterated the seriousness of the Senator’s intent in a comment posted on Twitter.
At noon tomorrow, McConnell is expected to ask for Unanimous Consent to vote on the veto override of the $740 billion defense bill. Bernie will object until we get a vote on $2,000 direct payments. We can force the Senate to stay in session until the New Year. This is no bluff. https://t.co/DgRB6hJgW8
— Warren Gunnels (@GunnelsWarren) December 28, 2020
Senator Sanders told Politico that “it would be unconscionable, especially after the House did the right thing, for the Senate to simply leave Washington without voting on this.”
“The American people are desperate,” the Vermont senator continued, “and the Senate has got to do its job before leaving town.”
While Sanders planned objection to the Defense bill can delay any vote on it, McConnell can eventually force an end to the debate through a cloture vote, but not without considerable delay and multiple votes that could keep Senators on Capitol Hill well past the time when they’d like to be out celebrating the new year.
Political commentator David Dayen of The American Prospect explained that Sanders “has the procedural means at his disposal to keep the Senate in session all the way to New Year’s Day, inconveniencing senators of both parties, particularly the incumbent Republicans from Georgia, who are in their final full week of campaigning for runoff elections on January 5.”
Often the only way anything gets done in Washington is if you inconvenience Senators enough. That's the plan here. https://t.co/3shdjnmYDN
— David Dayen (@ddayen) December 29, 2020
It’s incredibly sad that our government is being held captive by the stranglehold that Mitch McConnell has on the legislative pipeline.
The only way to stop this sorry state of affairs is to give a victory to Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff in the Georgia Senate runoff elections next week and hand control of the Senate back to the Democrats.
Please consider helping that happen by contributing to these Democratic candidates’ campaign funds here.
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Vinnie Longobardo is a 35-year veteran of the TV, mobile & internet industries, specializing in start-ups and the international media business. His passions are politics, music and art.