McConnell says push by Democrats, Trump for $2,000 stimulus checks has “no realistic path to quickly pass the Senate”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said that a proposal from Democrats to approve $2,000 stimulus checks has “no realistic path to quickly pass the Senate,” effectively killing one of President Trump’s top priorities in the final days of his presidency.

“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,” McConnell said on the Senate floor.

The GOP leader’s hard line stood in contrast with Trump, who previously said it would be a “death wish” for his own party if it did not approve additional aid. The move threatened to carry broad political repercussions, potentially casting a shadow over McConnell’s GOP majority — and the fate of two of his members as they run in special elections in Georgia. The two lawmakers, Sens. 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 U.S. debt and benefit some families who are not in need of financial assistance. Some of the people 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.

In doing so, McConnell instead pledged he would not sever the one-time checks from a broader package he unveiled earlier this week — one that includes an effort to study the 2020 presidential election for fraud and terminate legal protections for tech giants. Democrats vehemently oppose both additions, believing they are deliberate poison pills meant to scuttle any hope of a deal.

Trump upends GOP’s renewed focus on deficits, splitting party with push for $2,000 checks

“The Senate is not going to split apart the three issues Trump linked together just because Democrats are afraid to address two of them,” McConnell 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 aid, arguing that a weakening economy and raging pandemic are creating enormous hardship for millions of Americans.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said McConnell’s proposal had no chance of passing, meaning his ultimatum essentially served as Republicans’ way of killing the $2,000 check measure once and for all. Schumer said Republicans should allow all the senators to vote on a measure that passed the House of Representatives earlier in the week that enhance the $600 benefits authorized by Congress as part of the earlier, $900 billion coronavirus relief package Trump signed in recent days.

“At the very least, the Senate deserves the opportunity for an up or down vote,” Schumer said.

Here’s how $2,000 stimulus checks would work, and who would qualify.

Schumer then tried for a second time this week to move the House’s check proposal, again triggering McConnell’s objection. Incensed, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) then took the floor, blasting McConnell for ignoring the needs of his poorest constituents in opposing the additional aid.

“All we are asking for is a vote. What is the problem?” Sanders said before making his own ill-fated attempt to hold a vote Thursday, to which Republicans objected. ”If you want to vote against two thousand dollar checks for your state, vote against it”

As Sanders spoke, he stood in front of a large poster-sized version of one of Trump’s tweets from earlier Wednesday, which read “$2000 ASAP!”

The standoff Wednesday is likely to kill any prospect for a last-minute deal around additional stimulus aid. Only four days remain on the legislative calendar before both the House and Senate must adjourn, leaving little time for the sort of political bickering that has cast a pall over the entire Capitol throughout Trump’s first and only term.

The timeline is made all the more complicate as the Senate seeks to complete its work on the unrelated, unresolved matter of authorizing the Pentagon’s operations over Trump’s earlier veto of the annual defense policy bill. That process could subsume the Senate’s remaining minutes, after Sanders objected to its speedy consideration — 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 (Calif.) specifically blasted Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) 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 by up to $1,400.

“In blocking it, they are in denial of the hardship the American people are experiencing now, health wise, financially, and every way,” Pelosi said at a press conference.

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