Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday blocked consideration of a House bill that would deliver $2,000 stimulus payments to most Americans — spurning a request by President Trump even as more Senate Republicans voiced support for the dramatically larger checks.
McConnell’s move was just the beginning of a saga that is likely to engulf the Senate for the rest of the week. Democrats are pushing for an up-or-down vote on the House bill, while more Republicans acknowledge a need for larger stimulus checks.
Tension within the Republican Party spilled into public view on Tuesday, with Trump leveling pointed attacks at GOP leaders for failing to act, accusing them of being “pathetic” and suggesting they had a “death wish.”
New proponents of the $2,000 checks include Georgia’s two embattled Republican senators — David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler — who find themselves in tough reelection battles that will decide the fate of the chamber next week. Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) also lent support Tuesday, declaring that “people are hurting and we need to get them more aid.” They joined Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), who have also supported the idea of $2,000 stimulus checks.
Before adjourning the Senate on Tuesday, McConnell began to reveal his strategy for proceeding, one that Democrats immediately assailed as a political gambit that would prevent the checks from ever being approved.
McConnell started the process for moving to votes on two bills later in the week. One would be the House-passed bill for approving $2,000 stimulus checks. The second measure would combine the $2,000 checks with the establishment of a commission to study election fraud and a repeal of liability protections for technology companies and other firms.
Many Democrats oppose the inclusion of the election commission and the liability protection repeal, so they would almost certainly vote against that broader measure. But by packaging the election commission and the liability protection repeal with the $2,000 checks, McConnell could give Republicans the ability to say they voted for the larger checks even if the bill doesn’t ever become law.
This strategy could lead to a showdown on the Senate floor Friday.
Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said McConnell’s attempt to package all these items into one bill amounted to an attempt to poison the bipartisan effort to deliver larger checks and would be opposed by Democrats. In a statement, he called it “a blatant attempt to deprive Americans of a $2,000 survival check.”
As the legislative jockeying continued Tuesday, Trump escalated his blistering attacks on GOP leaders for their inaction so far.
“WE NEED NEW & ENERGETIC REPUBLICAN LEADERSHIP,” he wrote.
He also said there would be consequences for his political party if they didn’t act.
“Unless Republicans have a death wish, and it is also the right thing to do, they must approve the $2000 payments ASAP,” Trump wrote. “$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!”
The shifting Senate winds come a day after the House passed a bill to increase the size of stimulus checks with a bipartisan 275-to-134 vote. That proposal, called the Caring for Americans with Supplemental Help (Cash) Act, aims to boost the $600 payments authorized in the massive year-end spending-and-relief package that Trump signed Sunday by another $1,400 and expand eligibility for them.
The Treasury Department late Tuesday said it had begun issuing the first round of $600 stimulus payments and that some Americans could begin receiving them this week.
Early Tuesday afternoon, Schumer went to the floor to request that the Senate take up the House-passed bill.
“There’s a major difference in saying you support $2,000 checks and fighting to put them into law,” he said. “The House bill is the only way to deliver these stimulus checks before the end of 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?”
McConnell objected without making further comment.