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Young people, clergy members, and essential workers rallied to call on congressional leaders to pass federal relief that goes directly to individuals and state governments on May 15, 2020 in Los Angeles.

Young people, clergy members, and essential workers rallied to call on congressional leaders to pass federal relief that goes directly to individuals and state governments on May 15, 2020 in Los Angeles. (Photo: Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

'A Matter of Life and Death': Sanders Urges Americans to Call Their Senators and Demand Vote on $2,000 Checks

"We need $2,000 stimulus checks, not $740,000,000,000 for the Pentagon and private 'defense' contractors," said advocacy group CodePink.

Jake Johnson

Sen. Bernie Sanders on Wednesday urged members of the public to call their senators and demand an immediate vote on $2,000 direct payments as Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his Republican allies continue to stand in the way, blocking relief supported by a strong majority of U.S. voters and President Donald Trump.

"Call your senator at (202) 224-3121 and demand the Senate vote NOW on the bipartisan $2,000 direct payment legislation passed by the House of Representatives," tweeted the Vermont senator, who characterized the proposed $2,000 payments as "a matter of life and death for millions of Americans" in the midst of massive public health, hunger, and housing crises.

Sanders' plea came shortly before the Senate was set to convene Wednesday afternoon, with McConnell expected to try to move ahead with a vote to override Trump's veto of the $740 billion National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

Watch:

With the backing of many Senate Democrats, Sanders has vowed to do everything in his power to delay the NDAA in an effort to force McConnell to hold a clean vote on the House-passed CASH Act, which would boost the one-time direct payments in the new coronavirus relief law from $600 to $2,000.

When Sanders and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) attempted to advance the CASH Act on the Senate floor Tuesday, McConnell objected without explanation even as several members of his caucus—including Sens. David Perdue (R-Ga.) and Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.)—belatedly expressed support for the $2,000 payments.

"Life or death is not an exaggeration," Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) tweeted, echoing Sanders. "People are struggling and need more relief—now. Call your senators to demand a vote on $2,000 survival checks."

Progressive advocacy groups backed Sanders and Omar's call:

As Common Dreams reported earlier Wednesday, Sanders and Senate Democrats warned that McConnell is attempting to kill the direct payments with new legislation (pdf) that ties the checks to two of Trump's other demands—repeal of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act and a probe into virtually nonexistent "voter fraud."

"The House passed, to their credit, a simple, straightforward bill," Sanders told reporters on Tuesday. "Let's not muddy the waters: Are you for $2,000 or are you not?"

Lisa Gilbert, executive vice president of consumer advocacy group Public Citizen, accused McConnell of "sabotaging" the push for $2,000 payments "with poison pill riders."

"The facts concerning the 2020 election are crystal clear, there was no widespread fraud, and Republicans and President Donald Trump have seized on this false narrative as a mechanism to attempt to reverse the clear election results," Gilbert said in a statement. "The Senate should move the check-increase bill because it is the right thing to do for the American people, and not condition it on this partisan poison pill."


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