Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said Monday that he will delay a Senate vote to override President Donald Trump’s veto of a defense spending bill until a vote to increase COVID-19 relief payments to $2,000 is brought to the floor.
“[Mitch] McConnell and the Senate want to expedite the override vote and I understand that,” Sanders told Politico. “But I’m not going to allow that to happen unless there is a vote, no matter how long that takes, on the $2,000 direct payment.”
The House passed legislation earlier on Monday to more than triple stimulus payments outlined in the most recent coronavirus relief package, from $600 to $2,000 for every eligible American. The bill passed 275-134 in the lower chamber, with 231 Democrats and 44 Republicans voting yes.
Democrats have rallied around Trump’s last-minute support for heftier payments and have called on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to support them as well. But McConnell hasn’t commented on whether he’ll move forward with the bill.
Trump, whose administration helped negotiate the relief package, stunned Republicans last week when he urged lawmakers to increase the stimulus payments to $2,000 ― an amount some Democrats had been pushing for all along.
“The House passed a $2,000 direct payment for working people,” Sanders tweeted Monday. “Now it’s the Senate’s turn. If 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.”
Trump last week vetoed the National Defense Authorization Act, an annual defense policy bill that has bipartisan support. Among his list of demands, Trump has called on lawmakers to strip the proposed legislation of language that allows for the renaming of military bases that honor Confederate leaders.
The House voted Monday to override the president’s veto. The Senate is expected to do the same, setting up Congress’ first veto override of Trump’s presidency.
Sanders’ plan to filibuster the veto override vote is unusual but not unlawful, reported Politico. He can’t obstruct the vote indefinitely, but he can delay it until New Year’s Day.
Keeping the Senate in session through the end of the year would throw a wrench in Republicans’ plans — including those of Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler of Georgia, who are likely eager to return to their home state to campaign ahead of their highly anticipated runoff election on Jan. 5.
It’s unclear whether enough Senate Republicans would join Democratic caucus members to pass the $2,000 payments. At least 12 Republicans would have to vote in favor of the legislation.
Trump on Tuesday signaled a rare moment of support for Sanders, tweeting that Congress should “give the people $2000, not $600” in response to a report of the Vermont senator’s plan to filibuster the NDAA vote.
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