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Ron Johnson Blocks Hawley’s Direct Payment Bill, Citing Deficit Concerns

Senator Josh Hawley called for a vote on his stand-alone bill to provide a second round of direct payments for Americans in a floor speech on Friday, saying that working people should be the “top priority” when it comes to receiving coronavirus relief.

The effort was blocked by Republican Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, who argued that relief in the form of direct payments is not targeted precisely enough and will further balloon the national debt. Senate rules allow any individual senator to make a request to pass a bill, but the objection of only one other senator is required to block such a request.

“Nothing could be more targeted, no relief could be more important, than relief for working people,” Hawley said from the Senate floor.

The Missouri Republican’s bill would send a one-time payment of $1,200 to individuals, $2,400 to couples filing jointly, and $500 for each child. The CARES Act, the $2 trillion stimulus bill passed in March, provided funds for a one-time $1,200 check for Americans who make $75,000 or less a year, with smaller payment for those who make more than that but less than $99,000 a year.

“We will not have learned the lessons from our very hurried, very rushed earlier relief packages,” Johnson said.

Hawley criticized his colleagues’ reluctance to fund a second round of direct payments while being willing to bail out the major banks and corporations earlier this year in the CARES Act.

“We bailed out the banks to such a tune that now they’ve got money left over,” Hawley added. “Wall Street is doing great. Big Tech, they’re doing great. The big multi-national corporations, fantastic.”

“Working people? Working people are living in their cars. Working people can’t go to the doctor. Working people can’t pay their rent. Working people can’t feed their children,” Hawley said. “And it is no answer for this body to tell them, go get in an unemployment line.”

Hawley said he was “proud” to partner with progressive Senator Bernie Sanders on the direct payment measure and added that he will “keep working with whomever it takes for however long it takes until we get the working people of this country relief.”

Over the summer, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he is in favor of a second round of direct stimulus payments, and the Trump administration has called for a second round of payments since March.

Congress is currently negotiating another $900 billion coronavirus stimulus bill that is expected to pass late Friday as part of a broader spending package, just hours before the midnight government funding deadline. That bill is expected to include $600 direct payments to individuals.

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