WASHINGTON (CN) — Republicans on Wednesday retained a vice grip over relief for millions of Americans still enduring the 11th month of a pandemic that has killed more than 330,000.
The Senate is now poised to override President Donald Trump’s veto of the National Defense Authorization Act later this week. It includes funding for everything from pay raises for the military to the provision of personal protective equipment, to extended leave benefits for working military families and massive investment in cybersecurity defense and intelligence missions.
Uncontroversial in its passage for six decades, the $740 billion fund is one Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has vowed to see passed.
Democratic Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts and Vermont independent Bernie Sanders however, swore on Wednesday they would stall the Senate’s vote to override Trump’s veto.
“All we are asking is, allow members of the United States Senate to cast a vote. If you want to vote against giving constituents $2,000, vote against it… All we are asking for is a vote. What’s the problem?” Sanders said.
Their maneuvering is an attempt to secure delivery of $2,000 direct stimulus checks, already approved by the House via the CASH Act, short for Caring for Americans with Supplemental Help. Those lawmakers — joined by the Senate’s Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and others — urged the Senate’s chief scheduler to bring the bill to the floor for a vote.
McConnell has tied those checks to separate legislation in a nod to Trump’s fervent demands when he first vetoed the NDAA.
McConnell stymied the $2,000 direct payments Wednesday night in favor of Trump’s pet issue: The removal of liability protections for social media companies through the repeal of Section 230 of the Telecommunications Decency Act and the upstart of a committee to investigate election integrity in 2020.
“The Senate is not going to split apart the three issues that President Trump linked together just because Democrats are afraid to address two of them,” McConnell said from the floor. “The Senate’s not going to be bullied into rushing out more borrowed money into the hands of Democrats’ rich friends who don’t need the help. We just approved almost a trillion dollars in aid three days ago.”
But unlike Republican claims from the Senate floor Wednesday, Senator Dick Durbin, a Democrat from Illinois, explained funds would not go to the wealthiest 1% of families.
In Texas alone, people in cars lined up on interstates, queuing for food assistance only later to describe harrowing circumstances, like being volunteers at the same food bank at which they now begged for help.
“These were people who were not lazy at all,” Durbin said. “Misfortune has come their way and the question is: Will we help? This is our opportunity today.”
While lawmakers have intermittently interjected their opinions throughout the week on sending a $2,000 stimulus to American families, Wednesday’s 80-12 vote lurched the Senate’s legislative process forward. Tomorrow, senators will vote on whether to override the president’s rejection of the NDAA.