- Sanders was initially hesitant to work with Hawley in the push for $1,200 stimulus checks, per a new book.
- In December 2020, the pair teamed up to aid Americans struggling during the first year of the pandemic.
- “Bernie decided it was worth working with Hawley if we thought it could make a difference,” wrote Ari Rabin-Havt.
During the early months of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, it was apparent to most lawmakers that the economy would require some level of intervention from the federal government.
While many politicians, including independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and then-Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris of California, pushed for $2,000 monthly checks for the duration of the pandemic, lawmakers settled on a single $1,200 stimulus payment early that year, as well as beefed up unemployment insurance for Americans who had lost their livelihoods because of the coronavirus.
In December 2020, when lawmakers sought an agreement for additional aid to Americans, Sanders wanted another $1,200 payment for Americans and was joined in the effort by Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri — to the surprise of many people, especially in Washington, DC.
While Sanders had worked with legislators from across the ideological spectrum during his long congressional career, he didn’t know Hawley well and initially had reservations about teaming up with the conservative lawmaker, according to a new book by former deputy campaign manager Ari Rabin-Havt.
In the book, “The Fighting Soul: On the Road with Bernie Sanders,” Rabin-Havt expressed that Sanders had some misgivings about pairing up with Hawley, but ultimately wanted to help Americans in distress.
“We found an unlikely ally in Missouri Republican senator Josh Hawley,” Rabin-Havt wrote. “Bernie was hesitant at first. He didn’t know Hawley well and certainly didn’t trust him. And Hawley had ulterior motives, clearly using populist rhetoric and dabbling in populist policy to fuel a future run for president as a more capable version of Donald Trump.”
He continued: “Ultimately Bernie decided it was worth working with Hawley if we thought it could make a difference for Americans, even as he remained wary of empowering Hawley.”
Sanders and Hawley eventually went on with their drive to secure additional $1,200 checks for Americans, with the partnership attracting a lot of attention at the time.
“We pressed ahead, with Hawley and Bernie introducing the legislation and giving floor speeches on the subject. The media could not resist a story about strange bedfellows, so we gave them ample access,” Rabin-Havt wrote.
He added: “The notion of direct aid received the support of both the president-elect [Joe Biden] and Donald Trump’s administration. When Bernie and Hawley began working together, moderates had presented direct payments as a nonstarter. Suddenly, as the relief package made its way through the chamber the week before Christmas, the payments became inevitable.”
While the second payment amount was reduced to $600 for individuals as a compromise — and signed into law by Trump weeks before he left the White House — Sanders and the newly-empowered Democratic Senate majority went on to move through the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan which was signed into law by Biden in March 2021.
The legislation included an additional $1,400 stimulus check for Americans — and combined with the $600 checks authorized at the end of 2020 — resulted in a $2,000 payment that Sanders had long advocated for during the pandemic.