Pennsylvania Republican Pat Toomey blocked a Senate bill that would prevent private debt collectors from seizing stimulus checks, The Erie Times-News reports.
The Senate included a measure to block debt collectors from seizing the $600 stimulus checks in Decembers’ coronavirus relief bill after outcry over a lack of protections for the $1,200 checks included in last year’s CARES Act. But budget reconciliation rules, which allowed Democrats to pass the $1.9 trillion bill with a simple majority earlier this month, prevented a similar measure from being included.
Ohio Democrat Sherrod Brown and Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden called for unanimous consent for a bill that would instruct the IRS to tell banks not to let debt collectors seize the checks on Thursday.
Unanimous consent rules allow any senator to block a bill, which is exactly what Toomey did on Thursday.
Toomey argued that the lack of protections was the result of Democrats refusing to work with Republicans and opting to go the reconciliation route.
He also argued that low-income wages have risen during the pandemic, though the trend is miniscule and ignores the mass layoffs of low-wage workers over the past year.
He correctly noted, however, that it was likely too late to protect most of the payments after the Treasury Department already sent at least 90 million deposits.
"These payments have already gone out the door," he said. "The garnishment happens automatically. It’s already happened."
Democrats can still bring the bill to a regular vote but it could take days to invoke cloture -- or end debate -- and the bill still faces the threat of a Republican filibuster.
Since most payments have already been distributed, it’s unclear whether Democratic leaders will try to put it to a vote.
Brown vowed to keep trying, though advocates say given the timeline has already passed for most Americans, the Senate needs to ensure the expanded child tax payments included in the bill aren’t garnished as well.