McConnell says no realistic path for $2K checks
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell again blocked quick passage of a bill to increase coronavirus stimulus payments to $2,000, arguing the measure has “no realistic path to quickly pass the Senate.”
The Kentucky Republican said the only path forward is to combine the increased stimulus payments with two contentious policies that President Donald Trump also demanded Congress examine: Repealing Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which allows certain legal protections for big tech companies, and establishing a commission to study the 2020 election after Trump‘s baseless claims of widespread voter fraud.
McConnell’s push to combine the three provisions in one bill is a methodical strategy that likely ensures increased stimulus payments will not pass Congress, as Democrats and Republicans view big tech protections and Trump‘s claims on the election very differently.
“Here’s the deal. The Senate is not going to split apart the three issues that President Trump linked together just because Democrats are afraid to address two of them,” McConnell said on the Senate floor Wednesday. “The Senate is not going to be bullied into rushing out more borrowed money into the hands of Democrats’ rich friends who don’t need the help.”
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McConnell objected to a request by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., to unanimously pass the House bill, which passed that chamber earlier this week, that would increase the stimulus payments from $600 to $2,000. He objected to a similar request made by Schumer the day prior and instead introduced a bill that combined the three key policies, though a vote hasn’t been officially scheduled on the proposal.
Senate Republicans had for months urged limiting the size of the aid payments, citing concerns about the national debt. Most Republicans appear to be opposed to increasing the size of the one-time payments but are coming at odds with direct demands from the leader of their party. Holding a vote on the measure would put senators on the spot to either reject Trump‘s demands for increased checks or relent on long-held objections to adding to the debt.
McConnell said his push to combine the three policy issues was a direct deal with the president after Trump publicly aired grievances with the $900 billion coronavirus relief package, which was attached to a $1.4 trillion government spending bill. The president signed the massive package into law Sunday but has continued to insist on changes, lodging threats against Republicans via his Twitter account if they do not move on increasing stimulus payments and his other demands.
“To ensure the president was comfortable signing the bill into law, the Senate committed to beginning one process that would combine three of the President’s priorities,” McConnell said on the Senate floor Wednesday.
Throughout his speech, McConnell made a clear case against increasing stimulus payments, citing liberal economists and newspapers that bashed the idea as unnecessary because the payments are not targeted and would also go to Americans who might not need them as much.
Schumer took the Senate floor after McConnell and the New York Democrat made clear that McConnell’s proposal stood no chance of becoming law and was nothing more than a way “to kill a bill. Make no mistake about it.”
“I want to be very clear about one thing. There is no other game in town besides the House bill,” Schumer said, noting the House had recessed for the year and thus unable to take up any changes to the measure. “The only way — the only way — to get to the American people the $2,000 checks they deserve and need is to pass the House bill and pass it now.”
Multiple senators said the impasse means increasing stimulus check money for Americans would not pass and the issue would likely roll over to the next Congress, which convenes on Sunday for the first time.
Sen. John Thune, the No. 2 Senate Republican, said there did not seem to be time to examine the issue and negotiate a deal.
“I don’t see…how we get back to it,” Thune said, noting the differing schools of thought within the Senate on each of the issues, including the GOP divide on increasing the size of stimulus checks. The South Dakota Republican said he was not supportive of the president’s demand.
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, was similarly asked whether the idea of increasing stimulus checks was dead for now.
“I think under the circumstances, I think that’s likely true,” he said before bashing Democrats for not being willing to consider the president’s other demands. “[Democrats] want to spend the money on people who frankly haven’t suffered any financial losses during the pandemic and that’s just wasteful.”
Andrew Bates, a spokesman for President-elect Joe Biden‘s transition, said in a statement that Americans needed immediate relief and it was imperative to increase the stimulus payments now.
“In this moment of historic crisis and untold economic pain for countless American families, the President-elect supports $2,000 direct payments as passed by the House — a priority with strong backing from both parties,” Bates said. “For the hard-working Americans and small businesses who are struggling and need immediate relief, it’s imperative that we build on the bipartisan stimulus down payment.