Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday blocked unanimous passage of the $2,000 COVID-19 stimulus checks requested by President Trump.
McConnell (R-Ky.) objected after Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) asked for a unanimous vote on a five-page bill that passed the House on Monday with 44 Republican votes.
Trump requested the $2,000 checks last week, saying the $600 checks approved as part of a $2.3 trillion pandemic relief and government funding bill was too small.
McConnell blocked unanimous passage after scheduling a Wednesday vote to override Trump’s veto of a $740 billion defense bill.
It’s unclear if enough Senate Democrats will rally behind an attempted filibuster, or if the override vote will proceed without McConnell agreeing to a deal on $2,000 checks.
Trump tweeted after McConnell objected: “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!”
McConnell did not explain his position on increasing check amounts, but before objecting said the Senate would “begin a process” this week to bring that request and Trump’s push for repeal of Section 230 immunity for social media companies and election reforms “into focus.” He did not elaborate.
Schumer, citing a just-passed tax reform to benefit so-called “three martini lunches,” urged McConnell to allow “a simple up or down vote” on both the override and $2,000 checks before the legislative session ends Jan. 3.
Socialist Sen Bernie Sanders of Vermont, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, threatened Monday to filibuster the unrelated override vote unless McConnell scheduled a vote on the $2,000 checks. But if 60 senators vote to end debate, the defense override vote can occur without concessions to Sanders.
Schumer said on the Senate floor “$600 is not enough. Not enough from the mother in Nashville $4,000 behind on the rent whose water was shut off earlier this month, not for the medical receptionist in Macomb $2,100 behind on the rent, home electricity shut off in September on her son’s third day of virtual kindergarten.”
Sanders said “hunger in America is at the highest level 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.”
He added: “We are even seeing an increase in grocery store shoplifting as desperate Americans try to keep their families from going hungry — all of it’s taking place in the wealthiest country in the history of the world.”
A growing number of Republican senators support the higher check amount, including Georgia Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, whose Jan. 5 runoff races against Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff will determine partisan control of the Senate next year.
Republican Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Josh Hawley of Missouri also back Trump’s call for $2,000 checks.
Supporters of the larger checks cite rising unemployment as a result of local government-ordered business closures due to the pandemic.
Opponents of increasing the check amount say the boost would heap an estimated $463 billion onto the national debt and increase inflation.
Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas), chairman of the House Ways and Means committee, said Monday it would be wise to pause and “assess the impact of vaccinations” that began this month.
Rep. Kurt Schrader of Oregon, one of two Democratic “no” votes in the House, said “it is clearly a last-minute political maneuver by the president and extremists on both sides of the political spectrum who have been largely absent during months of very hard negotiations.”
The House-passed legislation would change the recently approved $600 amount to $2,000. The checks are means-tested– people who earn more than $95,000 and married couples making more than $190,000 get nothing under either the $600 or $2,000 proposals.
The $2.3 trillion bill that Trump signed Sunday creates a new $300 weekly supplement for unemployed people and adds $284 billion in Paycheck Protection Program forgivable small business loans. It also authorized $600 stimulus checks per child.
This content was originally published here.