McConnell blocks Democrats’ attempts to boost relief checks to $2,000

GOP leader cites other Trump priorities along with bigger rebates

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., leaves the Senate floor on Dec. 3. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., leaves the Senate floor on Dec. 3. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted December 29, 2020 at 1:39pm

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday blocked two Democratic attempts to approve a bill that would provide $2,000 tax rebate payments to Americans instead of the $600 lawmakers approved just last week.

McConnell first objected to a unanimous consent request from Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer that the chamber immediately pass the bill. He then objected to Vermont independent Sen. Bernie Sanders’ request that the Senate approve the bill after it votes to override President Donald Trump’s veto of the annual defense policy bill.

Sanders then objected to McConnell’s attempts to set up a veto override vote on the defense bill Wednesday, likely delaying that vote until Jan. 1 at the earliest.

The impasse about when and how the Senate would bring up a bill to increase the direct payments will likely become intertwined with addressing election security and overhauling a 1996 law that provides some legal protections to social media companies and other websites for the content posted on their platforms. That provision is often referred to as Section 230.

Trump listed all three as issues he wants lawmakers to address when he signed the $1.4 trillion omnibus and coronavirus relief package into law on Sunday. And McConnell introduced a bill later Tuesday to package all three elements together, infuriating Schumer who said the move was “a blatant attempt to deprive Americans of a $2,000 survival check.”

McConnell's bill release came after Trump published a series of tweets calling party leaders “weak and tired” and saying overriding his veto was “a disgraceful act of cowardice.”

“Negotiate a better Bill, or get better leaders, NOW! Senate should not approve NDAA until fixed!!!” he wrote, using the acronym for the National Defense Authorization Act.

The McConnell bill would increase direct payments to $2,000; repeal Section 230; and establish an 18-member bipartisan advisory committee to “study the integrity and administration of the general election for Federal office held in November 2020 and make recommendations to Congress to improve the security, integrity, and administration of Federal elections.”

During his floor remarks, McConnell didn’t clarify exactly how the Senate will deal with the bill, but he did say “this week the Senate will begin a process to bring these three priorities into focus.”

Schumer and Democrats rebuked McConnell for not allowing a quick vote on a bill the House passed with bipartisan support in a 275-134 vote Monday.

“I don’t want to hear it that it costs too much to help working families get a check when they’re struggling to keep their jobs … pay their rent, feed their families and live a halfway normal and decent life,” Schumer said.

Sanders doubled down, saying, “Hunger in America is at the highest level that it has been for decades, with moms and dads struggling to feed their kids and working families lining up mile after mile to get emergency food packages.”

Several Republicans support the Senate approving $2,000 stimulus payments, especially after Trump posted several tweets demanding the bill’s approval.

Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., signaled to reporters Tuesday she’s open to approving the bill but indicated that she’s opposed to rolling all three issues together into one package.

“I don't like everything rolled in together. I think you end up with bad policy,” Fischer said. “And I realize that in many cases you have to throw a lot of stuff in to get the votes, but we need to assume the responsibilities we’ve been given and really start to prioritize what the needs are of the people of this country.”

Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., who was pushing for the pandemic aid package to include $1,600 direct payments, took to Twitter to urge GOP leaders to quickly pass the bill that would provide $2,000 payments.

[Perdue, Loeffler call for $2,000 checks]

“Working Americans have borne the brunt of this pandemic. They’ve been hammered, through no fault of their own. They deserve $2000 in #covid relief — a fraction of what the banks & big business got. Let’s vote now,” Hawley wrote.

Niels Lesniewski contributed to this report.