'No realistic path to quickly pass the Senate': McConnell refuses to consider standalone bill on $2,000 stimulus checks

  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Wednesday said he would not consider a standalone bill on additional economic relief for millions of Americans. 
  • The Republican leader said a bill on $2,000 direct payments, passed by the House on Monday, "has no realistic path to quickly pass the Senate."
  • McConnell proposed a bill on Tuesday that tied the stimulus checks to two other priorities pushed by President Donald Trump, which are unrelated to the pandemic.
  • Democrats have already criticized McConnell's so-called poison pills, making distribution of $2,000 checks to Americans increasingly unlikely. 
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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Wednesday signaled he would not bring a standalone bill on $2,000 stimulus checks to a vote, making additional economic relief to millions of Americans increasingly unlikely.

The Republican leader said that the larger direct payments, intended to curb the devastating effects of the coronavirus pandemic and backed by President Donald Trump and congressional Democrats, have "no realistic path to quickly pass the Senate."

"Here's the deal. The Senate is not going to split apart the three issues that President Trump linked together just because Democrats are afraid to address two of them," McConnell said on the Senate floor. "The Senate's not going to be bullied into rushing out more borrowed money into the hands of Democrats' rich friends who don't need the help."

His comments come after a turbulent week in Washington, where Democrats and Republicans passed a long-awaited roughly $900 billion stimulus package to help boost the economy, attached to a $1.4 trillion spending bill to keep the government running through the next fiscal year.

Following its passage, Trump unexpectedly demanded Congress raise the already-negotiated $600 direct payments to $2,000, a stance quickly embraced by Democrats but rejected by Republicans.

Trump ultimately signed the bill as-is on Sunday night, yet repeated his calls for higher checks. The Democratic-controlled House then passed a bill on Monday that would increase the size of direct payments from $600 to $2,000. The aid is aimed at Americans earning up to $75,000.

Senate Democrats, led by Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, urged McConnell on Tuesday to bring the House bill, known as the CASH Act, for a vote on the Senate floor. The GOP leader objected, and later in the evening he introduced a new bill that tied the supplemental relief to two other Trump priorities, which are unrelated to the public health crisis.

The issues include investigating voter fraud in the 2020 elections and removing legal protections for social media companies — items that have come to the top of Trump's agenda during his final days in office.

There is no evidence of widespread voter fraud or voting irregularities in the 2020 race, won by President-elect Joe Biden. Trump has waged and lost dozens of legal battles in an attempt to overturn the election results in his favor.

The other part of McConnell's bill involves a repeal of Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, which shields tech companies and allows them to control content-regulation on their platforms. Trump has long accused Facebook and Twitter of having anti-conservative biases, and he's ratcheted up attacks on the social media platforms since they have begun labeling his misleading or false posts on the election with warnings to prevent misinformation.

Democrats slammed McConnell for bundling the $2,000 checks with the extra Trump proposals, so-called poison pills, likely killing efforts for more aid to Americans.

On Wednesday, McConnell argued his case against the larger checks, reiterating the GOP's traditional talking point of keeping the national debt levels low, a position criticized by Democrats. 

"These Republicans in the Senate seem to have an endless tolerance for other people's sadness," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a news conference earlier on Wednesday. "In blocking [the $2,000 checks], they are in denial of the hardship that the American people are experiencing now."

The Democratic leader did not say whether she would up bring up a new bill for $2,000 checks in the next Congress, scheduled to begin on Sunday.  

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Tuesday that the $600 direct payments are already on their way to Americans.

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