Josh Hawley, Bernie Sanders Team Up, Pressure Congress For Direct Stimulus Checks

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Andrew Trunsky Political Reporter
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Republican Sen. Josh Hawley and Democratic Sen. Bernie Sanders joined forces Thursday, introducing an amendment that would provide direct cash payments to Americans as part of any additional coronavirus relief that Congress passes.

The unlikely allies agree that Congress should not leave Washington before passing a relief package, and that any such package must include direct payments to help mitigate the economic hardship inflicted on millions of Americans due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“What I want to make clear today is that this must be part of any COVID relief package and if there isn’t a COVID relief package, then I want a vote on this stand-alone legislation,” Hawley told reporters Thursday.

“You can’t tell me you can’t find $300 billion for working families. You just can’t tell me that isn’t possible,” Hawley added.

“It is absolutely imperative that we provide $1,200 for every working-class adult and $500 for each of their children,” Sanders said during a speech on the Senate floor Thursday. “Congress cannot go home until we address this crisis.”

While several Democrats have called for direct cash payments for working families, many congressional Republicans have objected over the price tag, citing the need to address the already record-high federal deficit.

The Trump administration proposed a $916 billion plan this week that included $600 stimulus checks, but Democrats rejected the offer since it excluded any federal unemployment assistance.

Moderate lawmakers from both parties compromised on a $908 billion plan that included $300 unemployment checks for 16 weeks. Though the plan has the backing of congressional Democrats and President-elect Joe Biden, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has objected over the bill’s size and its lacking of a liability shield for businesses from coronavirus-related lawsuits. (RELATED: Pelosi Warns Stimulus Talks Could Extend Past Christmas)

Republican leadership has accused Sanders of threatening to delay the passage of a stopgap bill to keep the government funded unless his and Hawley’s proposal gets a vote, an accusation that Sanders did not deny Thursday when pressed by reporters.

“Let’s play it by ear,” Sanders said, according to Roll Call. “They can blame me for anything they want… But people back home by the millions are going to be blaming this Congress for inaction for leaving their children to go hungry or get evicted.”

Hawley has said that he will support a stopgap bill, but will continue to press Congress to pass a bill that includes direct cash payments as well.

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