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

Democratic senators push for $1,200 direct payments in new coronavirus relief package
© Getty Images - Greg Nash

A group of Democratic senators led by Sens. Bernie SandersBernie SandersHouse Democrats pass sweeping .9T COVID-19 relief bill with minimum wage hike House set for tight vote on COVID-19 relief package On The Money: Democrats scramble to save minimum wage hike | Personal incomes rise, inflation stays low after stimulus burst MORE (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenExclusive: How Obama went to bat for Warren Minimum wage setback revives progressive calls to nix Senate filibuster Democratic strategists start women-run media consulting firm MORE (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 MerkleyJeff MerkleyProgressives fume over Senate setbacks Ex-Capitol Police chief did not get FBI report warning of violence on Jan. 6 Democrats want businesses to help get LGBT bill across finish line MORE (D-Ore.), Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenHouse Democrats pass sweeping .9T COVID-19 relief bill with minimum wage hike House set for tight vote on COVID-19 relief package On The Money: Democrats scramble to save minimum wage hike | Personal incomes rise, inflation stays low after stimulus burst MORE (D-Ore.), Ed MarkeyEd MarkeyLawmakers commemorate one-year anniversary of Arbery's killing Democrats revive debate over calling impeachment witnesses LIVE COVERAGE: Senate trial moves to closing arguments MORE (D-Mass.) and Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandPentagon launches civilian-led commission to address military sexual assault Capito asks White House to allow toxic chemicals rule to proceed Lobbying world MORE (D-N.Y.) also signed the letter.

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The senators said the $908 billion relief bill spearheaded by moderates such as Sens. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinProgressives fume over Senate setbacks Politics, not racism or sexism, explain opposition to Biden Cabinet nominees House Democrats pass sweeping .9T COVID-19 relief bill with minimum wage hike MORE (D-W.Va.), Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsCollins urges Biden to revisit order on US-Canada border limits Media circles wagons for conspiracy theorist Neera Tanden Why the 'Never-Trumpers' flopped MORE (R-Maine), Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerSunday shows preview: 2024 hopefuls gather at CPAC; House passes coronavirus relief; vaccine effort continues Democrats demand Saudi accountability over Khashoggi killing US intel: Saudi crown prince approved Khashoggi killing MORE (D-Va.) and Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyThe Memo: CPAC fires starting gun on 2024 Trump at CPAC foments 2022 GOP primary wars Democrats scramble to rescue minimum wage hike MORE (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.

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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 SchumerChuck SchumerThe bizarre back story of the filibuster Hillicon Valley: Biden signs order on chips | Hearing on media misinformation | Facebook's deal with Australia | CIA nominee on SolarWinds House Rules release new text of COVID-19 relief bill MORE (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.