A single GOP senator blocked a bill that would stop private debt collectors seizing stimulus checks

pat toomey gamestop
Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa.

  • GOP Sen. Pat Toomey blocked a bill meant to stop debt collectors seizing stimulus checks.
  • Democrats had hoped to pass the measure to maximize the help people would get.
  • But Toomey intervened, saying debt collectors had the right to claim cash owed.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Republican Sen. Pat Toomey 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 senators Ron Wyden and Sherrod Brown.

Such a measure was included in the December stimulus package passed under President Donald Trump, which provided $600 checks.

However, it was not included in the latest stimulus bill passed under President Joe Biden, which provided $1,400 checks to most Americans.

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 stimulus.

That mechanism let Democrats pass the bill without any GOP votes, but comes with limits on what is allowed. The same rules led to proposals for a $15 federal minimum wage being dropped.

Democrats tried to introduce the rule in separate legislation, arguing that the cash is meant to help struggling Americans rather than debt collection agencies.

Wyden and Brown proposed the measure under a unanimous consent rule, which allows bills to pass quickly and bypass some lengthy Senate procedures.

However, any single senator can block such a proposal, which Toomey chose to do.

Toomey argued that Democrats were to blame for the rule not being in the recent relief bill, because they chose not to involve Republicans in putting it together.

He said that debt collectors had “valid legal claims” against people who “owe money to someone else and that someone else has gone to court, and it’s been adjudicated.”

The senator also said that, with 90 million relief checks already issued, it was too late to seek the amendment.

The process of the relief check money being seized by creditors is known as “garnishment.”

“These payments have already gone out the door,” Toomey said. “The garnishment happens automatically. It’s already happened!”

Toomey’s objection means it is likely that many other relief checks will be seized by debt collectors.

In comments to the Huffington Post, Brown said “we will keep trying” to get the measure passed. Senators can still try to pass it without unanimous consent, which would take longer and would also require some Republican support to evade filibuster rules.

“Families are hanging on by a thread, but Senate Republicans blocked protections against their relief payments from being seized to pay credit card and medical debt. It’s shameful,” said Wyden in a statement Thursday.

It is unclear if there is wide backing in the Senate GOP for Toomey’s objection to the measure. Republicans have supported the measure before but may not in future.

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GOP Senator Pat Toomey says another stimulus would be ‘inappropriate’ because of the ‘roaring’ economy

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Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pennsylvania) leaves the Senate chamber during a recess in the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump at the US Capitol on January 30, 2020, in Washington, DC.

  • GOP Sen. Pat Toomey said another stimulus package would be “inappropriate.”
  • Toomey said the “economy has come roaring back,” despite a bleak jobs report earlier this week.
  • Democrats are inching to pass a $1.9 trillion relief package with stimulus checks in the amount of $1,400.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Sen. Pat Toomey on Sunday said it would be “inappropriate” if Congress passed another stimulus package because the US economy is bouncing back from the coronavirus pandemic. 

“The economy has come roaring back. Disposable income is at record high levels,” Toomey, a Republican from Pennsylvania, said in an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“It’s not an economy in collapse, like it was in March,” Toomey added.

President Joe Biden is seeking to pass a $1.9 trillion emergency spending package that includes $1,400 stimulus checks. 

Democrats kicked off efforts this week to pass the plan through budget reconciliation. It’s a legislative maneuver allowing for the approval of a bill with a simple majority of 51 votes instead of the 60 generally required in the Senate.

The plan also includes $400 federal unemployment benefits lasting through September, assistance to state and local governments, among other provisions. Republicans have strongly opposed it, arguing it is a colossal level of untargeted spending on progressive priorities.

A group of 10 Senate Republican presented a counter offer last week: a $600 billion package that cuts the stimulus checks from $1,400 to $1,000. 

The Republican group was led by Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who discussed the proposal with Biden in a meeting last week. 

“We recognize your calls for unity and want to work in good faith with your Administration to meet the health, economic, and societal challenges of the COVID crisis,” a letter outlining their relief proposal said.

But Toomey, speaking on CNN, said even that $600 billion price tag is too high. 

“I don’t support that, I think it’s completely inappropriate,” Toomey said.

Toomey’s remarks about the economy come on the heels of a bleak jobs report. The US added 49,000 nonfarm payrolls last month, a sharp reversal from the losses seen in December but far fewer than economists anticipated. The unemployment rate also fell to 6.3% from 6.7%.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on Sunday said without Biden’s massive stimulus plan, the economy could continue to struggle for years. “We’re in a deep hole with respect to the job market and a long way to dig out,” she told CBS’ Face the Nation. She pointed to the 10 million people who are unemployed and 4 million who have dropped out of the job market — or who have given up on finding work. The majority of those are women, according to data from the Labor Department. 

Other metrics also show an economy still struggling to rebound. The number of permanent layoffs increased last month. Payroll growth for December and November were revised lower. And much of the decline in the unemployment rate was linked to more Americans ending their search for work and falling out of the labor force.

– Additional reporting by Joseph Zeballos-Roig and Ben Winck

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GOP Sen. Pat Toomey says Trump has ‘committed impeachable offenses’

Sen. Pat Toomey
Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pennsylvania) questions Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin during a hearing of the Congressional Oversight Commission on December 10, 2020 in Washington, DC.

  • GOP Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania said Saturday said that President Donald Trump has “committed impeachable offenses.”
  • During an interview on Fox News, Toomey said that he was unsure if the Senate would move on any articles of impeachment passed by the Democratic-led House of Representatives before Trump’s term ends in less than two weeks.
  • Toomey is retiring after the 2022 midterms elections.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

GOP Sen. Pat Toomey, who has ardently supported the validity of the 2020 presidential election results, said on Saturday that President Donald Trump has “committed impeachable offenses.”

During an interview on Fox News, Toomey, a two-term Pennsylvania senator who is retiring after the 2022 midterm elections, said he was unsure if the Senate would move on any articles of impeachment passed by the Democratic-led House of Representatives before Trump’s term ends in less than two weeks.

“I don’t know what they are going to send over and one of the things that I’m concerned about, frankly, is whether the House would completely politicize something,” he said.

He continued: “I do think the president committed impeachable offenses, but I don’t know what’s going to land on the Senate floor if anything.”

Toomey serves as one of the senior Republicans on the Senate Banking Committee.

Read more: Secret Service experts are speculating in group chats about how Trump might be hauled out of the White House if he won’t budge on Inauguration Day

The Jan. 6 siege at the Capitol, which represented the building’s worst breach since 1814, forced members of Congress to temporarily halt the certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory until the complex was cleared.

Trump, who has been widely criticized for his involvement in the protests aimed at contesting the 2020 election results, as well as the aftermath of the riots, is seeing cracks appear in the once impenetrable base of support among the congressional GOP.

Toomey joins other congressional Republicans in rebuking Trump, including Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who wants the president to resign, along with Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, who would like to see Vice President Mike Pence and Cabinet members use the 25th Amendment to remove the president from office.

GOP Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska said during a CBS interview on Friday that he would “definitely consider whatever articles” the House might end up passing.

“I believe the president has disregarded his oath of office,” Sasse said. “He swore an oath to the American people to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution. He acted against that.”

On Friday, GOP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky passed around a memo revealing that a Senate impeachment trial could not begin until Jan. 20, which is also Biden’s inauguration day, unless every senator agrees to begin a session beforehand.

This post has been updated.

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Mitt Romney and other GOP senators say they will oppose an effort by their colleagues to challenge the election results

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Sen. Mitt Romney criticized the efforts of some of his colleagues, including Sen. Ted Cruz.

  • Republican Sens. Mitt Romney, Pat Toomey, and Lisa Murkowski have said they will oppose an effort by their colleagues to challenge the election results.
  • Sen. Ted Cruz is among a group of GOP senators that said they will oppose the certification of Electoral College votes on Wednesday during a joint session of Congress that is usually procedural.
  • The effort could delay the certification of the results, but it will not change the results of the vote in any US state.
  • In a statement Saturday, Romney said the effort “may enhance the political ambition of some, but dangerously threatens our Democratic Republic.”
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah and other Republican senators said on Saturday that they will oppose an effort by their colleagues to challenge the results of the 2020 presidential election.

Earlier in the day, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas announced he will object to the certification of Electoral College votes, and a number of GOP senators are expected to join him.

“The egregious ploy to reject electors may enhance the political ambition of some, but dangerously threatens our Democratic Republic,” Romney said in a statement.

President-elect Joe Biden won the election by receiving 306 electoral votes compared to President Donald Trump’s 232. The results have been certified in every state, and presidential electors cast their votes last month.

The electors’ votes are set to be certified Wednesday during a joint session of Congress that is usually procedural, confirming the winner that voters and the Electoral College have already chosen.

Cruz’s effort to object could delay the certification of the results, but it will not change the election results in any US state.

Romney harshly rejected the effort, emphasizing the will of the voters.

“Were Congress to actually reject state electors, partisans would inevitably demand the same any time their candidate had lost,” Romney said. “Congress, not voters in the respective states, would choose our presidents.”

Republicans planning to object are reportedly requesting a 10-day emergency audit of the election results in some states, though Romney also noted that the Trump campaign lost all of its election lawsuits and that the Justice Department found no evidence of widespread voter fraud that would change the outcome.

He also criticized Trump directly for calling on his supporters to rally in DC the day the vote would be certified, saying it could lead to “disruption, and worse.”

“I could never have imagined seeing these things in the greatest democracy in the world,” Romney said. “Has ambition so eclipsed principle?”

Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska also said they would oppose the effort.

“A fundamental, defining feature of a democratic republic is the right of the people to elect their own leaders,” Toomey said in a series of tweets on Saturday.

He said the attempt by Cruz and others to overturn the election results “directly undermines this right.”

Toomey said the senators are justifying their objection by citing allegations of fraud, but that “allegations of fraud by a losing campaign cannot justify overturning an election.” He also said judges across the US have determined the allegations of fraud were not supported by evidence.

He said he voted for Trump, but that he plans “to vigorously defend our form of government by opposing this effort to disenfranchise millions of voters in my state and others.”

Murkowski also said in a statement Saturday that she will vote to affirm the Electoral College results and urged senators of both parties to do the same.

“The courts and state legislatures have all honored their duty to hear legal allegations and have found nothing to warrant overturning the results,” she said. 

Republicans who reportedly plan to object to the certification of the results include Cruz, Sens. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, James Lankford of Oklahoma, Steve Daines of Montana, John Kennedy of Louisiana, Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, Mike Braun of Indiana, and Sens.-elect Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming, Roger Marshall of Kansas, Bill Hagerty of Tennessee, and Tommy Tuberville of Alabama.

Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri also said on Wednesday that he intends to object.

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Republican Sen. Toomey to Trump: ‘You don’t get everything you want, even if you are the president’

pat toomey
Sen. Pat Toomey.

Republican Sen. Pat Toomey urged President Donald Trump to sign the coronavirus relief bill, even if it may not meet all of his demands. 

“You don’t get everything you want even if you are the President of the United States,” Sen. Pat Toomey said on “Fox News Sunday,” noting that “time is running out.”

Following much-prolonged contention, lawmakers came to a consensus on a $900 billion coronavirus relief package last week that included $600 direct payments for American adults and $300 unemployment insurance to span over 11 weeks, Business Insider’s Joseph Zeballos-Roig reported. 

Sen. Toomey had initially argued to limit the Federal Reserve’s lending powers, which became a major sticking point before lawmakers reached a compromise on the bill’s language about this matter over a late-night call between Sen. Toomey and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Business Insider’s Tom Porter reported.

But, President Trump did not sign the proposed coronavirus relief package before the end of Saturday, citing that the $600 direct payments to Americans must be increased to $2,000. Democratic lawmakers pushed to increase the direct payments up to $2,000, but House Republicans pushed back against their move to do so, according to Business Insider’s Zeballos-Roig. 

“I think what he ought to do is sign this bill and then make the case. Congress can pass another bill,” Toomey said. “But we’ve got a bill right now that his administration helped negotiate. I think we ought to get that done.”

The inability to pass the legislation has come at the cost of at least one week of unemployment benefits for millions of jobless Americans. 

A spokesperson for the White House did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment on Sunday. 




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A weekend stimulus deal could be derailed by a GOP measure to rein in the Federal Reserve

McConnell Portrait
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

  • A GOP measure to limit the Federal Reserve’s lending powers imperiled the odds of a weekend stimulus deal on Saturday.
  • Republican and Democrats fought bitterly over the Fed’s emergency aid programs, which have assisted state and local governments as well as mid-sized businesses.
  • Democrats argued the Republican proposal could cripple the incoming Biden administration’s ability to respond to the current economic crisis.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

A late Republican push to curtail the Federal Reserve’s lending authority formed a major roadblock in stimulus negotiations on Saturday – and it threatens to stretch the talks on a $900 billion emergency spending package into next week.

The clash over the Fed between Republicans and Democrats intensified on Capitol Hill. Politico reported that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told senators in a caucus call that Republicans should stand firm with Sen. Patrick Toomey. He’s demanding to cut off the central bank’s emergency lending powers after they sunset on Dec. 31, the current expiration date under the CARES Act which Congress approved in March.

As the pandemic swept the US and devastated the economy earlier this year, the central bank set up an array of programs to aid the flow of credit and provide loans to mid-sized businesses, along with state and local governments. The proposal would restrain the Fed’s ability to restart those programs without congressional approval. Toomey, the incoming chair of the Senate Banking Committee, called it “a bright red line” this week.

The ensuing fight could imperil the odds of a relief package passing both chambers of Congress this weekend, and raises the prospect of a shutdown given the deadline for government funding to dry up on Sunday evening.

Lawmakers authorized a two-day funding extension late on Friday to settle longstanding policy differences. The $900 billion federal assistance package is expected to include $600 stimulus checks for many Americans, $300 federal unemployment benefits, vaccine distribution funds, as well as another round of small business aid.

Republicans say that keeping the Fed’s emergency lending programs in place could cause the institution to overstep its historic boundaries as a lender of last resort. They also contend the Fed initiatives could create an avenue to aid states and municipalities, long a Democratic priority.

Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana, a GOP member of the Senate Banking Committee, told reporters that maintaining those programs could turn the Fed into “a commercial bank” and said “we’re gonna stand firm.”

Kennedy also suggested relief talks to resolve the issue could stretch on to “New Year’s or Christmas Eve.”

Democrats are fiercely resisting the measure. They argued its a political move aimed at crippling President-elect Joe Biden’s ability to manage the recovery while simultaneously jeopardizing the Fed’s capacity to respond to future recessions as well.

“The last thing America needs right now is to make it tougher to help people in communities and that’s what this proposal does,” Sen. Ron Wyden, ranking Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, said in a brief interview on Capitol Hill. He added it was “a significant sticking point” in the volatile negotiations.

“There’s no reason the Treasury and the Fed in the Biden Administration should have fewer tools to address an economic crisis than the Trump Administration had,” Bharat Ramamurti, a Democratic panelist on the Congressional Oversight Commission policing the Treasury and Fed’s economic response, tweeted on Saturday.

Not every Republican appeared to be onboard with Toomey’s proposal. Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah told Business Insider in a brief interview that pursuing major Fed reforms could wait until next year.

“I think the Fed should be returned to the powers it had prior to the CARES Act, but I think other reforms should wait for another time,” Romney said.

Senators discussed the divide during a confirmation vote on the Senate floor on Saturday afternoon, and a group that included Toomey and Romney broke off and met in Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s office. After leaving, Toomey said, “I think that we should be able to get a deal done.”

The fight on Capitol Hill elicited a rare public statement from Ben Bernanke, who served as chair of the Federal Reserve during the 2008 financial crisis. He said the central bank’s emergency lending powers from before the pandemic should remain “fully intact,” adding it was “vital” for its ability to respond to future financial or economic crises.

A failure from Congress to pass a new relief package carries potentially calamitous consequences for many Americans. Unemployment claims have risen for the past three weeks, and nearly 13 million people are threatened with the loss of all their unemployment assistance if some federal measures are not renewed by year’s end.

An eviction on moratoriums also expires on December 31, which would put millions of Americans at risk of losing their homes.

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