Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell all but shut the door on President Donald Trump’s push for $2,000 coronavirus relief checks, saying that Congress has provided enough pandemic aid as he blocked another attempt by Democrats to force a vote.
The GOP leader made clear Wednesday he is unwilling to budge, despite political pressure from Trump and even some fellow Republican senators.
Trump wants the recent $600 in aid increased threefold. But McConnell dismissed the idea of bigger “survival checks” approved by the House, saying the money would go to plenty of American households that just don’t need it.
“We just approved almost a trillion dollars in aid a few days ago,” McConnell said, referring to the package Trump recently signed into law.
McConnell added, “if specific, struggling households still need more help,” the Senate will consider “smart targeted aid. Not another fire hose of borrowed money.”
The showdown over the $2,000 checks has thrown Congress into a chaotic year-end session just days before new lawmakers are set to be sworn into office.
Trump has been berating GOP leaders for their failure to act, and tweeted, “$2000 ASAP!”
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 30, 2020
Presumptive president-elect Joe Biden also supports the increased payments.
“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,” Biden spokesman Andrew Bates said.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the $600 checks would begin to go out Wednesday.
Congress had settled on smaller payments in a compromise over the big coronavirus relief and government funding bill that Trump reluctantly signed into law. Before signing, though, Trump demanded more.
For a second day in a row, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer tried to force a vote on the bill approved by the House meeting Trump’s demand for the $2,000 checks.
“What we’re seeing right now is Leader McConnell trying to kill the checks — the $2,000 checks desperately needed by so many American families,” Schumer said.
Georgia’s GOP Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler are trying to fend off Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock in Jan. 5 runoff elections that will determine which party has the Senate majority. The two Republicans announced support for Trump’s call for $2,000 checks.
“The Senate Republicans risk throwing away two seats and control of the Senate,” Newt Gingrich, the former congressional leader, said on Fox News.
Earlier, McConnell had unveiled a new bill loaded with Trump’s other priorities.
It included the $2,000 checks more narrowly targeted to poor households as well as a repeal of protections for tech companies like Facebook and Twitter. It also established a bipartisan commission to review allegations of voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election.
If McConnell sets a vote on his bill, it could revive the $2,000 payments. But because it contains the additional tech and elections provisions, Democrats and some Republicans will likely balk and it’s unlikely to have enough support in Congress to pass.
No additional votes on coronavirus aid have been scheduled at this point.
Liberal senators, led by Bernie Sanders of Vermont, are blocking action on a defense bill until a vote can be taken on Trump’s demand for $2,000 for most Americans.
Republican Sens. Josh Hawley of Missouri and Marco Rubio of Florida also pushed in the president’s direction. Hawley is also leading Trump’s challenge to the Electoral College results in Congress.
Other Republicans panned the bigger checks, arguing during a lively Senate debate that the nearly $400 billion price tag was too high, the relief was not targeted to those in need and Washington had already provided ample aid.
Republican Sen. Pat Toomey tweeted that “blindly borrowing more than $600 billion so we can send $2,000 checks to millions of people who haven’t lost any income is terrible policy.”
Congress should continue helping workers who’ve lost their jobs. But blindly borrowing more than $600 billion so we can send $2,000 checks to millions of people who haven’t lost any income is terrible policy. I won’t consent to a vote on that. https://t.co/hCOlgcFPnq
— Senator Pat Toomey (@SenToomey) December 29, 2020
Trump’s demand gained momentum at the start of the week when dozens of House Republicans helped pass a bill raising the payments with a robust two-thirds vote of approval.
As his push hits a roadblock, his attempt to amend the year-end package — $900 billion in coronavirus aid and $1.4 trillion to fund government agencies through September — will linger as potentially one last confrontation before the new Congress is sworn in Sunday.
The bill revives a weekly pandemic jobless benefit boost — this time $300, through March 14 — as well as the Paycheck Protection Program of grants to businesses to keep workers on payrolls. It extends eviction protections, adding a new rental assistance fund.
Americans earning up to $75,000 will qualify for the direct $600 payments, which are phased out at higher income levels, and there’s an additional $600 payment per dependent child.
The Western Journal has reviewed this Associated Press story and may have altered it prior to publication to ensure that it meets our editorial standards.
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