Get PolitiFact in your inbox.
If Your Time is short
Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto cast one of 50 votes to not exclude prison inmates from receiving the third of three rounds of federal stimulus checks.
Her vote was not the deciding vote. She did nothing, such as withholding her support until the last moment, that would justify singling her out.
A TV ad claims that Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., is responsible for more than 1 million prison inmates receiving federal stimulus checks.
Cortez Masto faces Republican Adam Laxalt in Nevada’s toss-up race that could decide which party controls the Senate, now split 50-50.
The 30-second spot is from Club for Growth Action, a conservative super PAC. It opens with a narrator listing names and crimes as an image of a prison or jail cell appears in the background: "Anthony Robinson, double murder; Larry Norwood, sex trafficking; Robert Evans, child pornography; Jonathan Dickerson, fentanyl distribution."
A footnote on the screen refers to a January Fox News story. The story said the four are convicted felons serving prison sentences in four states, none in Nevada, who received $1,400 federal stimulus checks. Courts ordered all four to relinquish the payments so the money could go toward restitution for their crimes, the story said.
The ad’s narrator continues by saying: "Over 1 million prisoners received COVID stimulus checks, thanks to Catherine Cortez Masto. She was the deciding vote to send your money to these criminals." Images of Cortez Masto appear on the screen.
Club for Growth Action also ran a Spanish-language version of the ad.
The ad reflects the gamesmanship and exaggeration that occurs every election year as groups and political candidates attack incumbents for their legislative votes. Rather than just say the senator voted for a proposal, the attackers up the ante by declaring the senator delivered the single vote that made the difference.
Cortez Masto was one of 50 senators who voted to not exclude inmates from receiving a third round of checks. But her vote on the amendment did not carry any more weight than a vote from any of the other senators.
We asked Club for Growth Action about this and it provided no information that would distinguish Cortez Masto’s vote from the other "no" votes. She did nothing, such as withholding her support until the last moment, that would justify singling her out.
So, more than 1 million stimulus payments were sent to incarcerated people over the three stimulus plans.
President Donald Trump signed the first two bills, which received bipartisan support.
The ad refers to the third law, the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act, which President Joe Biden signed in March 2021. It provided stimulus checks of $1,400 for single taxpayers and $2,800 for joint filers. When this proposal was being considered, Republicans introduced an amendment seeking to explicitly disqualify inmates from a stimulus check. It did not pass.
The Democratic caucus in the Senate passed the American Rescue Plan on March 6, 2021, by a vote of 50-49, with Cortez Masto voting yes. Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, did not vote.
Another 50-49 vote the same day defeated a Republican amendment that would have excluded prisoners from the stimulus checks. Cortez Masto voted against the amendment; Sullivan did not vote.
All 50 votes from the Democratic caucus were needed to reject the amendment. But each one can’t be the deciding vote.
Josh Marcus Blank, a Cortez Masto campaign spokesperson, noted that Cortez Masto said in January that she supported a Treasury Department decision allowing states to seize stimulus payments from violent criminals who owed restitution to their victims.
Club for Growth Action said Cortez Masto "was the deciding vote" to send COVID-19 stimulus checks to more than 1 million prisoners.
The Senate passed three bills on stimulus checks, prisoners qualified for the payments because of broad eligibility rules. A vote to exclude inmates was held only for the third round of checks.
Cortez Masto was one of 50 senators who voted against the amendment. But describing hers as the "deciding vote" suggests Cortez Masto had some extraordinarily pivotal role, and that’s not the case.
We rate the claim Mostly False.
RELATED: Nevada fact-checks
YouTube, Club for Growth "’Inmates’ CFG Action Ad 30s English Version (NV-SEN)," Oct. 21, 2022
YouTube, Club for Growth "’Presos’ CFG Action Ad 30s Spanish Version (NV-SEN)," Oct. 21, 2022
Email, Joe Kildea, Club for Growth spokesperson, Oct. 25, 2022
Email, Josh Marcus Blank, spokesperson for Catherine Cortez Masto campaign, Oct. 25, 2022
Washington Free Beacon, "IRS Sent Over $1 Billion In Stimulus Checks To Locked Up Criminals, Including Murderers," Sept. 1, 2022
U.S. Senate, "Question: On the Amendment (Cassidy Amdt. No. 1162)," March 6, 2021
FactCheck.org, "Republican Talking Point Omits Key Details About Stimulus Payments to Inmates," Sept. 19, 2022
PolitiFact, "Arizona Sen. Mark Kelly voted for Trump and Biden laws that let prison inmates get stimulus checks," Oct. 20, 2022
PolitiFact, "Warnock, Cortez Masto voted for COVID-19 relief bill, but not for leisure projects it helped fund," July 28, 2022
PolitiFact, "Yes, Democrats voted to send stimulus checks to prisoners, as Republicans did last year," March 9, 2021
PolitiFact, "Spanberger voted to send stimulus checks to inmates. So did Republicans," Oct. 18, 2022
PolitiFact, "What makes a vote 'the deciding vote'?", Oct. 26, 2010
PolitiFact, "’The deciding vote?’ All 60 of them!", June 14, 2012
FactCheck.org, IRS letter to Rep. Don Bacon, July 8, 2022
Read About Our Process
In a world of wild talk and fake news, help us stand up for the facts.