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Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) heads to the Senate floor at the U.S. Capitol building on December 20, 2020 in Washington, D.C.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) heads to the Senate floor at the U.S. Capitol building on December 20, 2020 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images)

'This Is No Bluff': Sanders Vows to Filibuster Military Budget to Force Senate Vote on $2,000 Checks

"It would be unconscionable, especially after the House did the right thing, for the Senate to simply leave Washington without voting on this."

Jake Johnson

Sen. Bernie Sanders is planning to filibuster the Senate's upcoming attempt to override President Donald Trump's veto of the annual military spending bill in an effort to force a clean vote on House-passed legislation that would provide one-time $2,000 direct payments to struggling Americans.

"This week on the Senate floor [Republican Majority Leader] 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," the Vermont senator 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."

"We can force the Senate to stay in session until the New Year. This is no bluff."
—Warren Gunnels, Sanders staff director

"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," Sanders added. "Let's do our job."

Sanders' statement came shortly after the Democrat-controlled House overwhelmingly passed the CASH Act, which would increase the direct payments in the new coronavirus relief law from $600 to $2,000 and include some people who were originally deemed ineligible for the checks, such as adult dependents. The measure passed by a 275-134 vote, with 44 House Republicans joining 231 Democrats in approving the bill.

Following the House vote, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) reiterated his intention to try to pass the CASH Act on Tuesday, declaring that "every Senate Democrat is for this relief."

But McConnell has not committed to allowing a vote on the bill, intransigence that prompted Sanders' vow to hold up a Senate vote to override Trump's veto of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The House voted to override the president's veto Monday night.

"At noon tomorrow, McConnell is expected to ask for Unanimous Consent to vote on the veto override of the $740 billion defense bill," said Warren Gunnels, Sanders' staff director. "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."

In an interview with Politico, Sanders said 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 added, "and the Senate has got to do its job before leaving town."

Politico noted that "the Vermont independent can't ultimately stop the veto override vote, but he can delay it until New Year's Day and make things more difficult for the GOP... Though veto overrides can be filibustered, as Sanders plans to do, it is a rare procedural move because the veto override already requires 67 votes and the filibuster is simply a delay tactic, according to the Congressional Research Service."

While Sanders may not have the power to single-handedly kill the NDAA veto override, The American Prospect's David Dayen wrote Monday that the Vermont senator "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."

Dayen reported that Sanders will be operating "with the backing of the Senate Democratic caucus."

As Dayen explained:

In order to get through the week without a clean vote on the $2,000 payments, Senate Majority Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) will have to object numerous times to Sanders' pleas to bring up the bill...

The Senate operates on the principle of unanimous consent. It's not impossible to get things done if one senator objects, but it's quite a bit slower. The majority needs to hold votes and waste time to muscle past an objecting senator. For this reason, Sanders can prevent quick passage of the defense bill override, the only thing McConnell really wants to accomplish in the last week of the Senate session.

This ramps up pressure on McConnell to just hold a vote on the $2,000 checks. Senators don't want to be stuck in Washington on New Year's Eve or New Year's Day if they can prevent it...

McConnell has options to eventually get to the defense bill vote. He can move to end debate, known as a cloture vote, and push past Sanders' objection. However, he cannot do that on Tuesday, because he won't have enough senators in the building to win a floor vote.

In a tweet late Monday, Sanders pointed to new Data for Progress polling showing that 78% of likely U.S. voters—84% of Democrats, 73% of Republicans, and 74% of Independents—support a $2,000 direct relief check.

"The House approved a $2,000 direct payment," Sanders wrote. "Let the Senate vote, Mitch!"

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