Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked Chuck Schumer’s attempt to unanimously increase direct payments under the coronavirus relief bill to $ 2,000 by the end of the year.
The Kentucky Republican is under pressure to act after the House – with nearly all of the Democrats and a few dozen Republicans on board – voted Monday to increase cash deposits from $ 600 to $ 2,000. Now, Senate Republicans, who want to stop spending on pandemic aid, must decide how to handle a vote on a bill backed by President Donald Trump and the Democrats if they try to hold onto their majority.
McConnell brought the chamber back this week with a primary objective: to overturn Trump’s veto of the annual National Defense Authorization Act. He hasn’t yet committed to putting the $ 2,000 payment bill to the vote, and it’s now unclear how it would take shape.
Still, the Democrats tried to use the limited tools at their disposal to force a vote. McConnell spoke in the Senate Tuesday afternoon and said he plans to hold a vote on the veto suspension on Wednesday.
He outlined three priorities Trump wanted to address when he signed the Coronavirus Facilitation and Government Spending Act on Sunday: larger direct payments, protection of legal liability for internet platforms under Section 230, and unfounded concerns about widespread electoral fraud. Without going into any concrete plans, he said, “This week the Senate will launch a process to bring these three priorities into focus.”
Schumer then called on the Senate to vote on both the defense law veto suspension and the $ 2,000 payments and “drop the chips where they like”. When he asked for unanimous approval to increase the checks, McConnell disagreed.
Senator Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Then requested a vote on the larger payments after the NDAA’s vote on Wednesday. McConnell disagreed again. Sanders then followed up on his threat to delay the review of the veto waiver by objecting to a vote on Wednesday.
Since the Senate needs unanimous support to act quickly on most issues, any Senator can cease activities if they so choose.
If the whole chamber were considering stimulus control legislation, likely all 48 Democrats and Independents meeting them would vote in favor. It would then need support from 12 of the Chamber’s 52 Republicans.
Treasury has announced that the $ 600 payments will expire this week. If Congress approves the increase to $ 2,000, it will be added to the original amount.
Because some GOP Senators rejected the $ 900 billion spending in the latest bailout package, they may not support the addition of $ 463 billion – the Joint Tax Committee’s estimate of the cost of increasing the check to $ 2,000 – as of the Price tag. However, several Republicans including Sens. Marco Rubio from Florida and Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue from Georgia have signaled that they will back the $ 2,000 payments. Senator Josh Hawley, R-Mo., Who called for 1,200 checks early in the negotiation process, could also vote in favor of the increase to $ 2,000.
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) speaks to reporters after the weekly Senate Republican Conference meeting in the Mansfield Room of the U.S. Capitol in Washington on December 1, 2020.
Tom Williams | Reuters
If it chooses not to vote on the bill, the GOP would have to oppose the man who controls the Republican Party: Trump. He has repeatedly urged payments of $ 2,000 since threatening to veto the relief bill last week.
He said he wanted larger direct payments along with less foreign aid funds under the $ 1.4 trillion government funding package that was passed alongside the aid proposal. Trump gave in and signed the legislation on Sunday night, approving pandemic aid and preventing the government from closing.
In a tweet on Tuesday morning, the president called for “$ 2,000 for our great people, not $ 600!”
The votes in the House on Monday show that the GOP may be more comfortable bucking Trump. Only 44 Republicans supported the $ 2,000 check legislation, while 130 GOP officials voted against. Republicans also joined the Democrats to easily override Trump’s veto on the defense bill.
Sander’s attempt to keep the Senate in Washington during the week could also hamper Loeffler and Perdue, the Georgia Republicans, who are voting in the crucial January 5 runoff. If Democrats win both races – in which they hammered the GOP Senators for their response to the coronavirus – they will flip control of the Senate.
Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, who compete in these contests, have labeled the GOP Senators’ coronavirus response as inadequate and urged them to support payments of $ 2,000. In Fox News’ interviews on Tuesday, Loeffler and Perdue suggested sponsoring the larger checks.
“I stood by the president 100% of the time. I’m proud of it and have absolutely said we have to bring relief to the Americans now. And I will support that,” Loeffler said when asked if she would help Correct bill.
She later fully approved of the $ 2,000 payments on Twitter.
Perdue told Fox he was “pleased to support the president” when he pushed for $ 2,000 in deposits.
Both had previously resisted efforts to make higher direct payments as part of the stimulus package.
Efforts to increase the level of direct payments stem from widespread concern that the bailout has gone far enough to help Americans struggling to pay for housing and food. Congress failed for months in renewing the financial lifelines of the pandemic, which ended over the summer as millions fell into poverty.
Before agreeing to the $ 900 billion package, McConnell had been pushing for about $ 500 billion in new spending. Democrats, meanwhile, have called for at least $ 2.2 trillion in aid.
The compromise package that the parties eventually reached includes $ 600 in direct payments, half of what Congress passed under the CARES bill in March. It also adds a $ 300 unemployment insurance surcharge, half of Congress approved in March for extended payments. The weekly US $ 600 surcharge expired in July after lawmakers failed to renew it.
The new package includes $ 284 billion in loans for the futile paycheck protection program. It also extends a federal eviction moratorium through January 31 and creates a $ 25 billion rental assistance fund.
The bill provides more than $ 8 billion to distribute Covid-19 vaccines and more than $ 20 billion to be given free to Americans.
It also includes $ 82 billion in education funding and $ 45 billion in transportation. It left out any aid to state and local governments struggling with the pandemic.
– CNBC’s Hannah Miao contributed to this report