Stimulus Checks Gain Momentum in Senate, But McConnell Won’t Commit to Vote

The measure to raise direct payments from $600 to $1,200 passed the House, but the Senate majority leader was vague on whether it would get a vote in the GOP-led chamber.

 

SENATE MAJORITY LEADER Mitch McConnell objected on Tuesday to Democrats’ requests for an immediate vote on increasing stimulus checks to $2,000 even as momentum builds among more GOP senators for the House-passed bill that’s also backed by President Donald Trump.

From the floor, McConnell announced that the Senate will “begin a process” to address all three of Trump’s priorities that he highlighted on Sunday: higher stimulus checks, a review of voter fraud claims from the November election and consideration of reforms to Section 230, the regulation that shields tech companies from lawsuits over user content.

For now, the Kentucky Republican is essentially punting on a standalone bill to increase direct payments from $600 to $2,000. And he initially gave little insight or detail on how he’d proceed with Trump’s requests or how he’d tie them all together with only five days left in the legislative session. A new Congress will be sworn in on Jan. 3.

Before the Senate adjourned late Tuesday afternoon, McConnell introduced a long-shot bill that combines all of Trump’s demands: $2,000 stimulus checks, the repeal of Section 230 and the creation of a bipartisan committee that would “study the integrity and administration” of the Nov. 3 election. But no votes are currently scheduled, and McConnell could still decide to take up the House-passed checks bill.

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“Those are the three important subjects the president has linked together,” McConnell said on the Senate floor. “This week, the Senate will begin a process to bring these three priorities into focus.”

After McConnell’s announcement committing to move forward with Trump’s priorities, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont took to the floor to request immediate consideration and a standalone vote on stimulus checks. But McConnell rejected Schumer’s request for unanimous consent, which only takes one objection to kill the effort. McConnell also objected to Sanders’ request to consider a vote.

Since McConnell refused to consider immediate action on stimulus checks, Sanders, in turn, objected to holding a vote to override Trump’s veto on the National Defense Authorization Act on Wednesday. The House overwhelmingly voted Monday to overturn Trump’s veto on the $740 billion defense policy bill that has been signed into law every year for the past six decades. The Senate is poised to vote on the motion to proceed on Wednesday afternoon with a final vote on the veto override likely to occur around New Year’s Day.

If McConnell combines stimulus checks with other unrelated priorities elevated by Trump, it’ll likely turn off support from Democrats, who only want a clean vote on increasing payments. And while some Republicans support the repeal of Section 230, others have signaled their opposition to increasing the stimulus checks to $2,000.

“I don’t know what he has in mind, but the House passed, to their credit, a simple straightforward bill. Let’s not muddy the waters,” Sanders told reporters at the Capitol following McConnell’s objections.

“Are you for $2,000 or are you not? Let’s not talk about so-called voter fraud or abortion or anything else. That’s what the American people want to know: Which side are they on right now?” he continued.

After McConnell’s earlier objections, Trump continued to needle Republicans over Twitter for not moving forward immediately with $2,000 checks and applied more pressure on them to repeal Section 230.

“Unless Republicans have a death wish, and it is also the right thing to do, they must approve the $2000 payments ASAP. $600 IS NOT ENOUGH!” Trump tweeted Tuesday. “Also, get rid of Section 230 – Don’t let Big Tech steal our Country, and don’t let the Democrats steal the Presidential Election. Get tough!”

On Monday evening, the House passed legislation that increases stimulus checks to $2,000 with bipartisan support. But the fate of the bill rests on the GOP-controlled Senate. If all 48 Senate Democrats support the legislation, then they would need at least 12 GOP senators to join them for passage.

As of early Tuesday afternoon, four Senate Republicans publicly announced their support for $2,000 checks, including Sen. David Perdue and Sen. Kelly Loeffler, who both face runoff elections in Georgia next Tuesday that’ll determine which party controls the Senate.

Perdue and Loeffler signaled their support on Tuesday for increasing stimulus checks, aligning with Trump one week out from their competitive runoffs. Stimulus checks were becoming a major wedge issue in Georgia as both of their Democratic challengers pressured them to back the increase. Before Trump’s support, Perdue and Loeffler were noncommittal or silent on the issue.

“President @realdonaldtrump is right – I support this push for $2,000 in direct relief for the American people,” Perdue tweeted Tuesday morning.

Shortly after Perdue’s support, Loeffler tweeted a similar sentiment: “I agree with @realDonaldTrump – we need to deliver $2,000 direct relief checks to the American people.”

Other Republicans who back $2,000 checks include Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri, who’s been supportive of higher stimulus checks for weeks and lobbied Trump on the issue during stimulus negotiations, as well as Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who recently lent his backing. Both Hawley and Rubio are considered possible presidential contenders in 2024.

Sen. Deb Fischer of Nebraska also appeared open to the idea of increasing direct payments for Americans and families. When asked directly if she’d support $2,000 checks, she responded that “it depends on what’s on the floor.”

“People are hurting and I think we need to get more aid. I’m upset it’s not targeted. I’m upset that the process is always throwing in things together, I’m upset we continue to not have bills in time to really study them,” Fischer told reporters Tuesday on Capitol Hill.

Until Tuesday afternoon, McConnell had been silent on whether he’ll bring up a vote on $2,000 checks since many in his conference have expressed concerns over a hefty price tag on additional coronavirus relief.

Currently, Americans are set to receive a second round of stimulus checks at $600 for individuals making under $75,000 a year, or $1,200 for couples who make less than $150,000. Families will get an additional $600 per child.

But last week, Trump threatened to hold up the $2.3 trillion package on coronavirus relief and government funding in part over the current amount of the stimulus checks. He ultimately signed the measure into law on Sunday evening, signaling that he got commitments that Congress would act on several of his priorities.

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