WASHINGTON â€” Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell said that a proposal from Democrats to approve $2,000 stimulus checks has â€œno realistic path to quickly pass the Senate,â€™â€™ effectively killing one of President Trumpâ€™s top priorities in the final days of his presidency.
â€™’The Senate is not going to be bullied into rushing out more borrowed money into the hands of Democratsâ€™ rich friends who donâ€™t need the help,â€™’ McConnell said on the Senate floor.
The GOP leaderâ€™s hard line came a day after Trump said it would be a â€œdeath wishâ€™â€™ for his own party if it did not approve additional aid. The move threatened to carry broad political repercussions, potentially casting a shadow over McConnellâ€™s GOP majority â€” and the fate of two of his members as they run in special elections in Georgia. The two lawmakers, Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, had joined a growing roster of party members who had expressed a newfound openness to plussed-up stimulus benefits in recent days.
McConnell said he opposed the House-passed measure out of a belief it would greatly inflate the US debt and benefit some families who are not in need of assistance. Some who would qualify for the payments belong to households earning up to $300,000, the GOP leader alleged, adding that many of them had not been disadvantaged by the pandemic.
McConnell instead pledged he would not sever the one-time checks from a broader package he unveiled earlier this week, which includes an effort to study the 2020 presidential election for fraud and terminate legal protections for tech giants. Trump has sought to couple the issues as part of his continued assault on Silicon Valley and President-elect Joe Biden.
Democrats vehemently oppose both additions, saying they are deliberate poison pills meant to scuttle any hope of a deal. Even some Republican lawmakers have questioned the wisdom of marrying the provisions in a single bill. But McConnell on Wednesday held firm that they would be considered together. â€™’The Senate is not going to split apart the three issues Trump linked together just because Democrats are afraid to address two of them,â€™’ the Kentucky Republican said.
With the process unraveling in the Senate, Democratic leaders on Wednesday still urged Republicans to try and move quickly on another round of stimulus support, arguing that a weakening economy and raging pandemic are creating enormous hardships for millions.
Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer said McConnellâ€™s counterproposal had no chance of passing, meaning his ultimatum essentially served as Republicansâ€™ sly way of killing the prospect of $2,000 checksl. Schumer said Republicans should allow all the senators to vote on a measure that passed the House earlier in the week that would enhance the $600 benefit authorized by Congress as part of the earlier, $900 billion coronavirus relief package, which Trump recently signed.
â€™’At the very least, the Senate deserves the opportunity for an up or down vote,â€™’ Schumer said.
Schumer then tried for a second time this week to move the Houseâ€™s check proposal, again triggering McConnellâ€™s objection. Incensed, Senator Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent, took to the floor, blasting McConnell for ignoring the needs of his poorest constituents.
â€™’All we are asking for is a vote. What is the problem?â€™’ Sanders said before making his own ill-fated attempt to hold a vote Thursday, to which Republicans objected. â€™’If you want to vote against $2,000 checks for your state, vote against it.â€™’
As Sanders spoke, he stood in front of a large poster-size version of one of Trumpâ€™s tweets from earlier Wednesday, which read: â€œ$2000 ASAP!â€™â€™
The standoff Wednesday is likely to kill any prospect for a last-minute deal on additional stimulus aid. Only four days remain on the legislative calendar before both House and Senate must adjourn, leaving little time for the sort of political bickering that has cast a pall over the Capitol throughout Trumpâ€™s sole term in the White House.
The timeline is made all the more complicated as the Senate seeks to complete its work on the unrelated, unresolved matter of authorizing the Pentagonâ€™s operations over Trumpâ€™s earlier veto of the annual defense policy bill. That process could subsume much of the Senateâ€™s remaining minutes, after Sanders objected to its speedy consideration â€” in part to force a vote on stimulus checks that McConnell has not allowed.
Congressional Democrats opened Wednesday once again urging Republicans to boost stimulus payments. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi specifically blasted McConnell for blocking his chamber from taking up and passing a House bill, known as the CASH Act, which would have boosted the one-time government deposits up to $2,000.
â€™’In blocking it, they are in denial of the hardship the American people are experiencing now, health wise, financially, and every way,â€™’ Pelosi said at a news conference.
McConnell this week did introduce a Senate version of the House-backed stimulus bill as a way to preserve his options later in the week. But the GOP leader has concentrated his attention on a second proposal that included newer politically divisive elements, such as an effort to repeal a portion of law known as Section 230, which spares Facebook, Twitterm and other tech giants from lawsuits.