McConnell blocks vote on $2K checks, signals new package

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday blocked an attempt by Democrats to set up a stand-alone vote on increasing the amount of recently passed stimulus checks from $600 to $2,000.

Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) both tried to get consent for the Senate to bring up legislation that passed the House in a 273-134 vote on Monday.

The GOP leader did not directly address why he objected, but under the Senate’s rules any one senator can block efforts to set up votes or pass bills. 

McConnell signaled separately that he could package the increase in direct stimulus checks, with a repeal of a tech shield that has emerged as a top target for Trump and election-related investigations. Trump, in his statement on signing the $2.3 trillion package, said the Senate would “start the process for a vote” that tackles the three issues. 

“During this process, the president highlighted three additional issues of national significance he would like to see Congress tackle together,” McConnell said.

“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,” he added.

McConnell did not provide additional details during his floor speech about how he might bring the measures up. But the GOP leader later filed a bill that would increase the amount of the stimulus checks, repeal a legal shield for tech companies known as Section 230 and create an election commission that would study the November elections.

He also started the process for getting his bill and the House-passed measure, known as the CASH Act, on the Senate calendar — which would make them each available for a vote but doesn’t guarantee they will be brought up.

But tying the stimulus checks to Section 230 or to Trump’s unsubstantiated claims that widespread election fraud cost him a second term would almost certainly undermine Democratic support for such legislation.

Schumer panned McConnell’s legislation in a statement on Tuesday evening.

“Senator McConnell knows how to make $2,000 survival checks reality and he knows how to kill them. If Sen. McConnell tries loading up the bipartisan House-passed CASH 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.

GOP Sen. Pat Toomey (Pa.) separately warned during an interview with CNN on Tuesday that he would not consent to holding a vote on increasing the amount of the checks.

Without the cooperation of every senator, the Senate is expected to debate Trump’s veto of an unrelated defense bill until Friday or Saturday, leaving them little to time to bring up and vote on a checks proposal before the start of the 117th Congress at noon Sunday.

Democrats want a stand-alone vote on a bill to increase the stimulus checks from $600 to $2,000.

“The fastest way to get money into Americans’ pockets is to send some of their tax dollars right back from where they came. Two-thousand dollar stimulus checks could mean the difference between American families having groceries for a few extra weeks or going hungry,” Schumer said, before unsuccessfully trying to pass the House bill. 

Sanders tried to set up a vote on the House bill for Wednesday. When McConnell objected, Sanders blocked the GOP leader from scheduling a quick vote on overriding Trump’s veto of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). 

He added that “the leaders of our country, President Trump, President-elect Biden, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, the speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi are all in agreement. We have got to raise the direct payments to $2,000.”

Updated at 6:49 p.m.

Tags Bernie Sanders Chuck Schumer Coronavirus COVID-19 direct payments Donald Trump Mitch McConnell Nancy Pelosi Pat Toomey stimulus checks

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