Republican Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania on Thursday blocked a bill meant to bar private debt collectors from seizing checks issued as part of the recent stimulus bill.
The law that Toomey opposes had been proposed by Democratic Sens. Ron Wyden and Sherrod Brown.
Such a measure was included in the December relief package passed under President Donald Trump, which provided $600 direct payments to most Americans.
It was not included in the stimulus bill passed under President Joe Biden, however, which provided $1,400 payments.Democrats still supported the proposal but had to leave it out because of the rules of the Senate mechanism known as budget reconciliation, which was used to pass the latest legislation.
Toomey, however, objected. Under the Senate's rule any one senator can try to set up a vote or pass a bill, but any one senator can similarly object.
Toomey argued that Democrats' decision to go it alone and use the process of reconciliation on coronavirus relief was the reason they couldn't get the language protecting the payments into the bill.
“It was going to be strictly Democrats using the reconciliation process, and that is the only reason that this provision couldn't be addressed because it can't be dealt with under the reconciliation rules,” Toomey said.
Toomey also argued that the legislative fix supported by Wyden and Brown would prevent the money from going to individuals that a court has already determined should see the payment.
“How about the deadbeat dad not paying his child support?” Toomey said.
It may be too late for most people anyway, as the Treasury Department announced earlier this week that 90 million payments had already been sent.“These payments have already gone out the door,” Toomey said. “The garnishment happens automatically. It’s already happened!”It’s not clear if Democratic leaders want to bother with running the Brown-Wyden bill through the cloture process, which can take several days.
“We will keep trying,” Brown told HuffPost.Lawmakers also failed to protect the first round of $1,200 stimulus payments in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Stability (CARES) Act in March 2020. But after they passed the CARES Act, the Senate unanimously approved a bill to disallow garnishments, meaning no Republicans objected. (Most of them had voted for the stimulus act itself.)The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives never took up the protections, and debt collectors seized an unknown number of CARES Act payments.
Jerri Scranton of Schenectady, New York, told HuffPost her husband was left with only $153 of his $1,200 payment last year after ITT Technical Institute snatched the rest for an unpaid debt from computer classes he’d taken in 2006.The defunct for-profit education company sicced debt collectors on its former students even after it went bankrupt in 2016, prompting lawsuits. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau settled with the company in September, halting collection on the loans.Scranton, 59, said it would have been one thing if the government had taken the money because her husband had owed child support or taxes, but it was especially unfair that it was garnished by a defunct entity.“I’m very angry about that,” Scranton said. “The company went bankrupt!”
Pennsylvania Democrats slammed Toomey's objection, citing the hardships his constituents have faced during the pandemic.
“This explains why Pat Toomey is not running for re-election. He's so grossly out of touch,” Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, who is running for Toomey's seat, told the Erie Times-News. “The fact that he's on the side of debt collectors after a yearlong pandemic is all you need to know about Pat Toomey,” he added. “To give those badly needed checks to debt collectors when people have struggled through the first pandemic in over 100 years is bizarre and warped.”
State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, a Philadelphia Democrat who is also running for the seat, told the outlet the objection marked a new “low.”
“It should be a shock to no one. Pat Toomey never worked for us. He only worked for the people who own him,” Kenyatta said, referring to the senator's donors from the financial industry. “He's working for his next job.”
The last time Toomey had to run for re-election was back in 2016 and his opponent, Katie McGinty (D. PA), said it best:
Maybe Philadelphia native and Pennsylvania Senate candidate Katie McGinty was just feeling confident after winning a prime speaking spot at the Democratic National Convention. But she strayed from her usually composed manner of speech Monday, saying in front of a crowd of people that her opponent is “an asshole, damnit.”
The comment was made during a demonstration put on by members of the Communications Workers of America union who were calling for an increase in the federal minimum wage. Slogans appearing on their signage read: “Raise it, damnit,” with regard to the minimum wage. McGinty apparently took a step further and echoed a comment made by CWA President Christopher Shelton.
A prominent conservative fundraising group has called out Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) as a RINO — a Republican in name only — and “weak,” 10 years after it championed his candidacy for the Senate at a time when some Republicans thought he was too far-right to win.
The attack by the Senate Conservatives Fund underscores how much and how fast the GOP is changing and serves as an opening salvo in what’s likely to be an ugly primary battle next year.
But none of the Republicans are likely happy to see their reputations tarnished by the group’s fundraising appeal.
“Senate RINOs are calling it quits!” the group exulted in an email last week asking for money.
“The mainstream media believes these departures are a loss for the Republican Party, but they actually create a unique opportunity to replace weak Republicans next year with strong conservatives who will truly fight for our principles and values,” it said.
By the way, Democrats wouldn’t have had to use budget reconciliation if Toomey and the GOP weren’t threatening to filibuster much needed relief for folks during this time. Speaking of which, click here to contact your Democratic Senator and urge them to reform or abolish the filibuster.
2022 couldn’t get here soon enough. Let’s replace an asshole with a real U.S. Senator. Click below to donate and get involved with the Pennsylvania Democrat of your choice and with the Pennsylvania Democratic Party: