Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked Democrats’ effort to quickly hold a vote on a stand-alone measure to increase stimulus payments from $600 to $2,000 on Tuesday. This move comes just one day after the House of Representatives passed the bill with bipartisan support.
Despite requests from Senator Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senator Bernie Sanders to fast-track the bill, McConnell objected. While he did not explain why he objected, he signaled his support of President Donald Trump’s demands to increase stimulus checks, repeal Section 230, and investigate election fraud.
“Those are the three important subjects the president has linked together. This week the Senate will begin a process to bring those three priorities into focus,” McConnell said on the Senate floor on Tuesday.
It remains unclear exactly how he will proceed, but tying desperately needed stimulus checks to baseless claims of election fraud and limiting legal liability protections for tech companies will make the bill that much more difficult to pass. As it is, Trump’s delayed signing of the COVID-19 relief package cost many Americans a week of enhanced unemployment benefits.
In response to McConnell’s objection, Sanders threatened to delay Wednesday’s vote to override Trump’s veto of the annual defense authorization bill unless McConnell allows the Senate to hold a vote on the stimulus bill this week.
“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,” Sanders said on Tuesday. “We have got to raise the direct payment to $2,000. Do we turn our backs on struggling working families or do we respond to their pain?”
Until McConnell allows the Senate to vote on the bill to increase stimulus payments to $2,000, Americans making under $75,000 a year will be sent stimulus checks at the $600 level. The payments are expected to start to going out at some point this week. If the Senate approves the stimulus increase, those who already received the initial $600 will be sent an additional $1,400.
“Let me be clear: If Senator McConnell doesn’t agree to an up or down vote to provide the working people of our country a $2,000 direct payment, Congress will not be going home for New Year’s Eve,” Sanders said in a statement. “Let’s do our job.”