Democratic senators push for $1,200 direct payments in new coronavirus relief package

A group of Democratic senators led by Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) are pressing colleagues to include $1,200 direct payments in a new COVID-19 relief package and say a $908 billion compromise proposal endorsed by moderates doesn’t go far enough. 

“Please join us in demanding that any new COVID-relief proposal includes a $1,200 direct payment to adults and $500 to their children,” the senators wrote in a “Dear Colleague” letter dated Dec. 8.

Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) also signed the letter.

The senators said the $908 billion relief bill spearheaded by moderates such as Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Mitt Romney (R-Utah) doesn’t provide enough relief.

“Simply stated, given the horrific extent of the current crisis and the desperation that working families all over this country are experiencing, this proposal does not go anywhere near far enough,” they wrote.

“In truth, rather than the $3.4 trillion which we Democrats called for in the HEROES Act, this bill only allocates $348 billion in new money,” they wrote. “The remaining $560 billion are funds transferred from the CARES Act that have not yet been obligated.”

The group of Democrats point out in their letter that the compromise proposal “only provides a $300 supplement for unemployed workers rather than $600 a week.”

“Unlike the $1,200 direct payment for every working class individual and $500 for each child, it provides absolutely no direct payment,” they wrote.

They also criticized the moderates’ plan for doing “nothing to address the health care crisis impacting tens of millions of Americans who cannot afford medical care” and said it “has totally inadequate financial assistance for the most vulnerable.” 

“Given the enormity of the crisis today, it would be unacceptable to take a major step backwards from those previous efforts by passing legislation that only included $348 billion in new money,” they wrote. 

Sanders told reporters earlier Tuesday that he is pressing Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) to support a larger relief package that includes $1,200 direct payments to individuals and $500 for each child.

“You’re going to hear from us very, very shortly,” he said. “You’re going to see a … letter going out from a number of us to try to rally the Democratic caucus to stand tall,” adding that he had already spoken to Schumer about the issue.