A bill to increase the amount of recently passed stimulus checks from $600 to $2,000 was blocked for a third day in a row in the GOP-controlled Senate.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBiden says he's open to altering, eliminating filibuster to advance voting rights Pelosi says GOP senators 'voted to aid and abet' voter suppression for blocking revised elections bill Manchin insists he hasn't threatened to leave Democrats MORE (R-Ky.) blocked an effort by Senate Democratic Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerManchin meeting with Biden, Schumer in Delaware Progressives' optimism for large reforms dwindles Democratic frustration with Sinema rises MORE (N.Y.) and Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersRepublican spin on Biden is off the mark Sanders on Medicare expansion in spending package: 'It's not coming out' Briahna Joy Gray: Biden must keep progressive promises or risk losing midterms MORE (I-Vt.) to try to schedule a vote on the House-passed bill.
The back-and-forth on the floor comes after McConnell signaled on Wednesday that the Senate would not pass the House bill, warning that they were not going to "split" increasing the checks from repealing Section 230, a legal shield used by tech companies, and a commission on the 2020 election.
McConnell, on Thursday, teed off against the House bill, characterizing it as "socialism for rich people" because under the House-passed bill some higher income households who hadn't been expected to get a payment under the $2.3 trillion deal could be eligible.
"Our colleagues who purport to be the champions of vulnerable Americans now say that what struggling people really need is for Congress to stop focusing on targeted relief for them specifically and to instead send thousands of dollars to people who don't need help," McConnell said from the Senate floor.
"We do not need to let the Speaker of the House do socialism for rich people in order to help those who need help," McConnell added.
Under the Senate's rules, any one senator can try to set up a vote or pass a bill, but any one senator can block it. McConnell also blocked the House-passed bill on Tuesday and Wednesday.
The GOP leader has offered a competing proposal that would link the increase in the amount of the checks to the tech fight and the election. But the Senate is unlikely to vote on either before the end of the current Congress on Sunday. If lawmakers miss that, deadline they will have to start over.
Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamPennsylvania Republican becomes latest COVID-19 breakthrough case in Congress McCain: Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner had 'no goddamn business' attending father's funeral Mayorkas tests positive for COVID-19 breakthrough case MORE (R-S.C.), who has aligned himself closely with President TrumpDonald TrumpSix big off-year elections you might be missing Twitter suspends GOP Rep. Banks for misgendering trans health official Meghan McCain to Trump: 'Thanks for the publicity' MORE, called on McConnell during a Fox News interview earlier Thursday to hold a stand-alone vote after the 117th Congress starts on Sunday on increasing the amount of checks, as well as stand-alone votes on Section 230 and the election commission.
Schumer, speaking from the Senate floor, threw his support behind that idea, but unlike Graham wants the votes to take place before the 116th Congress ends on Sunday morning.
"We're willing to vote on the other issues that President Trump mentioned. All the issues the Republican leader says must be addressed so long as we vote on them separately," Schumer said.
Sanders, responding to McConnell's "socialism" line, pointed to the 2018 Republican tax bill saying that the GOP-controlled Senate had "used this body to provide massive tax breaks to the rich, providing corporate welfare to corporations who don't need it."
"The argument that this bill in any significant way benefits the rich is just inaccurate. Let us talk about who this bill does benefit. This bill benefits tens of millions of Americans who as a result of this pandemic have ... lost their jobs," Sanders said.
"All that we are asking is give us the opportunity to vote up or down on whether or not working families in this country should be able to receive a $2,000 check," Sanders added.