Bernie Sanders threatens to filibuster defense bill unless Senate allows vote on stimulus payments

Sen. Bernie Sanders said Monday he plans to filibuster the Senate’s vote to overturn President Donald Trump’s veto of the defense spending bill, unless Majority Leader Mitch McConnell agrees to vote on a bill to raise individuals’ stimulus payments to $2,000.

“This week on the Senate floor 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,” Sanders tweeted Monday. “I’m going to object until we get a vote on legislation to provide a $2,000 direct payment to the working class.”

McConnell has given no indication how the payment-hike bill will be handled. Trump and Democrats support the $2,000 payments, while most Republican senators have been opposed, creating a rare rift among the GOP. At least 13 Republicans would need to cross the aisle for the bill to pass.

In an interview later with Politico, Sanders confirmed his filibuster plan. “McConnell and the Senate want to expedite the override vote and I understand that. 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,” he told Politico on Monday night.

Sanders’ filibuster would not ultimately block the defense bill, but it could delay a vote until New Year’s Day, disrupting senators’ holiday weekend plans and keeping Republican Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue in Washington instead of campaigning in Georgia for next week’s runoff election. Sources close to Sanders told Politico that it would also make the stimulus payments a front-and-center campaign issue in Georgia; neither Loeffler nor Perdue have explicitly supported the $2,000 payments.

The House passed a bill Monday to increase individual payments in the recent stimulus bill from $600 to $2,000, with support from dozens of Republicans. The House also overwhelmingly voted to override Trump’s vetoof the $740 billion defense bill. The Senate needs a two-thirds majority vote to overturn the veto, which seems likely.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said late Monday he would try to force a unanimous-consent vote on the payments bill Tuesday, though that is likely to fail.

“There’s strong support for these $2,000 emergency checks from every corner of the country — Leader McConnell ought to make sure Senate Republicans do not stand in the way of helping to meet the needs of American workers and families who are crying out for help,” Schumer said in a statement.

Sanders told Politico he hopes for a Senate vote on the bill Wednesday.  “It would be unconscionable, especially after the House did the right thing, for the Senate to simply leave Washington without voting on this,” he said.

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