UPDATE, DEC 31:
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has effectively killed off any increase in one-off Coronavirus payments from $600 to $2,000, at least until a new Congress convenes in early January.
A day after blocking a vote on the measure and then putting “poison pill” provisions into it, McConnell declared on the Senate floor that there is “no realistic path” for passage of the increased payments to all Americans making less than $75,000 a year.
He repeated that the “poison pills” must be included: a commission to investigate “election security”, including the false and unsupported claimed made by Donald Trump, and removal of legal protections from websites and social media platforms.
McConnell, whose personal wealth is an estimated $34 million, said, “The Senate is not going to be bullied into rushing out more borrowed money into the hands of Democrats’ rich friends who don’t need the help.”
He ignored that Trump first broached the increased payments, as he threatened to veto the $900 billion Coronavirus relief package and the 5,593-page funding measure to keep the Federal Government open.
Trump tweeted from his Florida resort on Wednesday, “$2000 ASAP!”
Speaking after McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, again sought an immediate vote: “There is no other game in town….At the very least, the Senate deserves the opportunity for an up-or-down vote.”
McConnell again blocked the request.
ORIGINAL ENTRY, DEC 30:
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (pictured) blocks an increase in one-off payments from $600 to $2,000 under a $900 billion Coronavirus relief package, all but guaranteeing that the measure will not be adopted before the current Congress ends next week.
Facing tweets from Donald Trump backing the step and the possibility of a split Republican caucus, McConnell first prevented a vote on the stimulus checks.
Then he added “poison polls” to the measure. He combined it with the removal of legal protection for websites and social media platforms and — after the Majority Leader refused funding for election security last year — the creation of a commission “exploring further ways to protect the sanctity of American ballots”, as Trump continues to push disinformation about his loss to President-elect Joe Biden.
The US death toll reached 338,632 on Tuesday. The daily rise of 3,626 was the second-highest in the pandemic.
Confirmed cases are 19,515,430. Hospitalizations are at a record 124,686.
McConnell was placed in a bind after the House voted 275-134 on Monday for the $2,000 payments to all Americans making less than $75,000 a year. More than 40 Republicans joined almost all Democrats in support of the measure.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi seized the opportunity after Donald Trump, threatening a veto of the Coronavirus relief package and funding of the Federal Government, broached the $2,000 figure. By Tuesday, some Republican Senators — including David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler of Georgia, both of whom are facing re-election challenges on January 5 — were publicly promoting the increased payments.
Perdue said last August that he opposed any direct payments, and Loeffler had been silent except for a brief statement last week that she would endorse the increase only if “it repurposes wasteful spending”.
Republican Sen. Josh Hawley tweeted:
Working Americans have borne the brunt of this pandemic. They’ve been hammered, through no fault of their own. They deserve $2000 in #covid relief – a fraction of what the banks & big business got. Let’s vote now
— Josh Hawley (@HawleyMO) December 29, 2020
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer put the question to McConnell on the Senate floor, “Senate Democrats strongly support $2,000 checks. Even President Trump supports $2,000 checks. There’s one question left today: Do Senate Republicans join with the rest of America in supporting $2,000 checks?”
So McConnell linked the step to a sudden removal of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. The section protects websites and platforms from lawsuits over comments made by a user.
Trump has argued without evidence for months that the law enables websites to censor conservative opinions.
Democrats have opposed a blanket repeal of Section 230 and sought changes addressing discriminatory advertising or terrorist content. Schumer said in a statement on Tuesday:
If Senator 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 be a blatant attempt to deprive Americans of a $2,000 survival check.
Trump Berates “Weak” GOP Legislators
Trump began Tuesday with the declaration, “$2000 for our great people, not $600!” He then launched an attack on Republican legislators amid his ongoing effort to overturn the November 3 election.
Repeating his false and unsupported claims that votes were switched to President-elect Biden, Trump shouted, “WE NEED NEW & ENERGETIC REPUBLICAN LEADERSHIP.”
….Can you imagine if the Republicans stole a Presidential Election from the Democrats – All hell would break out. Republican leadership only wants the path of least resistance. Our leaders (not me, of course!) are pathetic. They only know how to lose! P.S. I got MANY Senators..
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 29, 2020
A few hours later, Trump linked his “stolen election” rant, the increased Coronavirus payments, and Section 230:
Unless Republicans have a death wish, and it is also the right thing to do, they must approve the $2000 payments ASAP. $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!
He continued on Tuesday afternoon, “Republicans must support the $2000 payments and must FIGHT the crooked presidential election. We won big!”
In a rant that continued until after midnight, Trump also berated Republican leaders in Georgia as “a complete disaster and worse” — “No one can be this stupid” — and the “very boring and incoherent” Wall Street Journal.