Sanders to delay defense veto override in bid for $2,000 checks

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Sen. Bernie Sanders will filibuster an override of President Donald Trump’s defense bill veto unless the Senate holds a vote on providing $2,000 direct payments to Americans.

“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,” Sanders said in an interview on Monday night. 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.

The House passed the payment boost sought by Trump and Democratic leaders on Monday evening, and Trump said the Senate has agreed to “start the process” on a stimulus checks vote when he signed the $900 billion relief bill. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has yet to address the timing of such a vote.

Under Senate rules, Sanders has the ability to keep the chamber in during the holiday week and likely mess with the campaign schedules of Sens. David Perdue (R-Ga.) and Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.). Those two face Jan. 5 runoff races for control of the Senate against Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, who are both campaigning on the $2,000 checks.

A source close to Sanders said the Senate races were a factor in his decision — part of a bid to keep Perdue and Loeffler in D.C. and focus the campaign on their position regarding the $2,000 checks. Sanders also threatened to shut down the government earlier this month if the coronavirus relief bill did not include direct payments; ultimately it included checks of up to $600 and the government stayed open, though now Trump wants to go much higher.

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.

Sanders said he hopes McConnell allows a vote on the checks on Wednesday.

“The American people are desperate, and the Senate has got to do its job before leaving town,” Sanders said. “It would be unconscionable, especially after the House did the right thing, for the Senate to simply leave Washington without voting on this.”

It’s not clear whether there are 60 votes in the Senate for the $2,000 checks, which would require at least 13 Republicans to join with the chamber’s 47 Democratic Caucus members. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer plans to try and force a vote on the House-passed bill Tuesday, though any one member of the Senate can object and many conservatives oppose that level of spending.

Still, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) endorsed the $2,000 checks on Monday night and some House Republicans supported it on the floor, demonstrating a split in the party over whether to give Trump the checks he’s demanding as he prepares to leave office in January.

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