In a tie vote of 47-47 on Sunday evening, Senate Democrats blocked H.R. 748, the Middle Class Health Benefits Tax Repeal Act of 2019 from proceeding. It needed 60 votes on the cloture measure to continue to a final vote. In a second vote to move forward with the bill early Monday afternoon, the bill again failed 49-46. 

Five Republican senators, and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., didn’t vote on the bill Sunday evening. The Republican senators who didn’t vote were self-quarantined due to the coronavirus, including Sen. Rand Paul who became the first senator to be diagnosed with the disease. According to the New York Post, Sen. Sanders missed the vote to attend a campaign event with Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., Ilhan Omar D-Minn., and Rashida Talib, D-Mich. 

The bill proposed direct checks of $1,200 to every person making less than $75,000 annually, and $2,400 to couples who file jointly and make less than $150,000 annually. The amount would increase by $500 per child and would be gradually reduced for those who make between $75,000 and $99,000. Individuals who make over $99,000 would not receive anything.

The $1.8 trillion price tag for the bill has increased gigantically in just a few days. On March 19, The Daily Citizen reported that the President Trump’s administration was proposing a bill with a cost of just $1 trillion 

In a comment made to Democrat House members on a recent caucus phone call, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., echoed a prevalent sentiment in Congress. “Let’s not worry about the cost. It’s an investment in the health of the economy,” Speaker Pelosi said. 

Senate Democrats allegedly tried to use the stimulus bill to push partisan priorities. “This is a tremendous opportunity to restructure things to fit our vision,” House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., was quoted as saying on the caucus call.

As a result of impasse in the Senate over H.R. 748, tensions boiled over on the Senate floor on Monday morning prior to the second cloture vote. 

In an animated speech, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., blasted Senate Democrats for holding up the stimulus bill. “Here are some of the items on the Democratic wish list over which they chose to block this legislation last night,” Sen. McConnell said. “Tax credits for solar energy and wind energy. Provisions to force employers to give special new treatment to big labor. And listen to this, new emission standards for airlines. Are you kidding me!”

Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., also expressed his dismay at the hold up by Senate Democrats. “You know what the American people are thinking right now? They’re thinking that the brain is an amazing organ. It starts working in a mother’s womb, and it doesn’t stop working until you get elected to Congress,” Sen. Kennedy declared. “They’re thinking that this country was founded by geniuses but it’s being run by a bunch of idiots. They’re thinking ‘why do members of the United States Senate continue to double down on stupid?’” 

In response to Sen. Kennedy’s comments, Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said, “We don’t think your bill works. We don’t think the bill that has been drafted by the majority party is going to fix the problem.

As the Senate remains in a deadlock over the $1.8 trillion economic stimulus package, Speaker Pelosi has announced the House will move forward with a Democrat version of the bill.

It’s sad to see bipartisanship nearly dead in the U.S. Senate, even when it comes to something every politician loves to do. Spend money.


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