Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) blocked two separate attempts from Democratic senators to set up a stand-alone vote on a bill recently passed in the House that would increase direct payments offered under the $900 billion COVID relief bill from $600 to $2,000, rebuffing President Trump request with more Senate Republicans voicing support behind providing most Americans the larger checks.
The House on Monday passed a measure that raised the payments to $2,000 with bipartisan support. Forty-four House Republicans joined the vast majority of Democrats on approving the bill. The measure narrowly reached the two-thirds majority needed for the expedited procedure used to pass with the final vote tally was 275-134.
The Joint Committee on Taxation estimated that the $2,000 relief payments could cost as much as $464 billion dollars, more than half of what the entire $900 billion COVID-19 relief package cost. The current COVID-19 relief measure that includes the $600 checks that the Treasure Department has begun sending out the payments to Americans came at a total cost of about $160 billion.
McConnell objected to a motion brought by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to approve the stimulus-checks bill dubbed the CASH Act by unanimous consent.
“There’s a major difference in saying you support $2,000 checks and fighting to put them into law,” Schumer said, bringing up the motion for the Senate to vote on the CASH Act. “The House bill is the only way to deliver these stimulus checks before the end of the session. Will Senate Republicans stand against the House of Representatives, the Democratic majority in the Senate, and the president of their own party to prevent these $2,000 checks from going out the door?”
“I don’t want to hear that we can’t afford it. I don’t want to hear that it would add too much to the deficit. Senate Republicans added nearly $2 trillion to the deficit to give corporations a massive tax cut. Leader McConnell holds the key to unlocking this dilemma,” Schumer added.
McConnell objected to Schumer’s request for a vote by unanimous consent, and didn’t provide further remarks
The GOP leader also blocked a motion brought shortly after by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) to vote on the stimulus check bill immediately after the Senate votes on overriding President Trump’s veto of the $740 billion National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). After McConnell objected, Sanders blocked the GOP leader from scheduling a quick vote on overriding Trump’s veto of the defense bill.
“I think Leader McConnell is going to tell us what’s going to happen but I would say that at a time when two-thirds of the House voted to provide those $2,000 checks. The overwhelming majority of Americans want that, Trump wants it, Biden wants it, Pelosi wants it, Schumer wants it. Let’s have a vote, and let’s pass this damn thing,” Sanders said on the Senate floor.
McConnell did not explain why he objected to Schumer’s request to fast-track the bill, or Sanders’ call to motion a vote. Instead, the GOP leader outlined three priorities Trump demanded Congress examine, linking the CASH Act along with the president’s calls to repeal Section 230 into one bill, as well as calls for an investigation into the 2020 election. The liability protection law provides a shield for social media companies to protect them from being sued over content posted by others using their platforms while allowing the platform for content moderation.
“During this process, the president highlighted three additional issues of national significance he would like to see Congress tackle together,” McConnell said without providing additional details on how he would bring the measures or when exactly the vote would happen. “Those are the three important subjects the president has linked together. This week, the Senate will begin a process to bring these three priorities into focus.”
The Majority leader did not outline any timeline for when or if the chamber might take up increased stimulus payments or Trump’s other demands.
After McConnell spoke, Trump blasted Republicans for failing to approve the $2,000 payments, escalating his attacks by suggesting they really. do have a “death wish.”
“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. “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!”
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! 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! https://t.co/GMotstu7OI— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 29, 2020
Georgia’s two Republican senators — Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, both of who are facing tough runoff reelection battles next week with the outcome determining the faith of the Senate control, recently said they outright support the measure.
“Absolutely, we need to get relief to Americans now, and I will support that,” Loeffler said on Fox and Friends Tuesday morning.
Perdue tweeted his support hours later, saying he backs “this push for $2,000 in direct relief for the American people.”
The two Georgia senators joined Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) who initially called for more aid, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), slowly forming a coalition backing Trump request and the need for larger payments amid signs of economy worsening and COVID cases rising.
Later on Tuesday, McConnell initiated a process to combine the three priorities Trump called for into one bill on the Senate calendar. The package lumps the CASH Act with two other proposal measures — repeal liability protection known as Section 230 for social media companies and establishing a commission to study and review the 2020 election and election fraud. The commission would examine many of the concerns Trump has raised regarding election fraud and would “make recommendations to Congress to improve the security, integrity, and administration of Federal elections,” the bill says.
However, the combined proposal will draw opposition from Democrats, with many oppose the need for an election commission and some believing social media anti-trust is more imperative than liability protection. The CASH Act and the combined package bill has been placed on the Senate calendar — which would make them each available for a vote but doesn’t guarantee when or if they will be brought up.
Schumer, in a statement, said McConnell’s proposal a “blatant attempt” to end the chances of sending out larger stimulus payments.
“If Sen. McConnell tries loading up the bipartisan House-passed CASH (Caring for Americans with Supplemental Help) Act with unrelated, partisan provisions that will do absolutely nothing to help struggling families across the country, it will not pass the House and cannot become law – any move like this by Sen. McConnell would a blatant attempt to deprive Americans of a $2,000 survival check,” Schumer said in a statement. “Will Senate Republicans go along with Sen. McConnell’s cynical gambit or will they push him to give a vote on the standalone House-passed CASH Act?”
The combined package will definitely see Democratic senators voting against, despite having the $2,000 stimulus relief checks attached and preventing the 60 votes needed to certainly get any or all of the three measures to pass. This potential strategy would leave the GOP leader turning the tables back towards Democrats, blaming them for failing to make the stimulus relief and to repeal Section 230 into law by refusing its passage.
Such a showdown is expected to occur Friday on the Senate floor. On Wednesday, the Senate is scheduled to override Trump’s veto of the defense bill