Bill for Higher Stimulus Payouts Stalls in Senate

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Wednesday the Senate would not quickly take up a House bill to boost the size of pandemic relief payments for most Americans to $2,000 from the current $600.  The Kentucky senator said the House bill “has no realistic path to quickly pass the Senate.”   With a new Congress due to be sworn in January 3, it was unclear what, if any, actions would be taken by the current Congress. Without action, the House bill will expire.   McConnell introduced a measure Tuesday that tied the demand for higher coronavirus pandemic relief payments together with some of President Donald Trump’s unrelated demands concerning a U.S. defense bill that the president has vetoed. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky walks to the Senate floor on Capitol Hill in Washington, Dec. 30, 2020.Trump had also criticized the pandemic relief bill, which he finally signed Sunday after several days of delay. Democrats have long supported higher payments, and the Democrat-majority House quickly agreed to boost the sum to $2,000 after Trump first advocated the larger amount.   Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer objected to McConnell’s attempt to tie the stimulus money to Trump’s demands that social media companies be stripped of some legal protections and that a fresh investigation of potential election fraud be started. Republicans have mounted dozens of lawsuits without uncovering any evidence of fraud in the November presidential election won by Democrat Joe Biden.Even if the combined legislation passed the Senate, it would have to go back to the Democrat-controlled House for a vote on the new provisions.  Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Dec. 30, 2020.”Senator McConnell knows how to make $2,000 survival checks reality and he knows how to kill them,” Schumer said 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 Senator McConnell would be a blatant attempt to deprive Americans of a $2,000 survival check.”   McConnell blocked Schumer’s attempt Tuesday to force an immediate up-or-down vote on the stand-alone measure authorizing the $2,000 payments. How the Republican-majority Senate will proceed with the two proposals is not clear.   Some Republicans have expressed support for bigger coronavirus payments directed to families with combined annual incomes of up to $150,000, who make up about 81% of all U.S. households. Among the Republican proponents are Georgia’s two senators, David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, who are facing runoff elections next week. Their Democratic challengers also favor the bigger payments.   But some Republicans have voiced opposition, saying the bigger payments would be too costly and would not necessarily boost the U.S. economy, which has been staggered by the coronavirus pandemic.   Defense billOn another pending piece of legislation, McConnell is urging his colleagues to override Trump’s veto of a $740 billion defense spending measure in a vote expected this week.   “President Trump has rightly noted this year’s defense bill doesn’t contain every provision that we Republicans would have wanted. I’m confident our Democratic colleagues feel the same way,” McConnell said Tuesday. “But that is the case every year. And yet, for 59 consecutive years and counting, Washington has put our differences aside, found common ground and passed the annual defense bill.”  The Senate approved the NDAA 84-13 earlier this month, far more than the two-thirds vote needed to override a veto. After Trump’s veto, the House of Representatives responded with an overwhelming vote to override it on Monday.   McConnell was hoping to hold the Senate vote on Wednesday. However, liberal senators led by Bernie Sanders have been blocking action on the defense bill to press for a Senate vote on the increased coronavirus relief payments. A vote in the Senate could come later this week or over the weekend. U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) speaks to reporters while leaving the Senate floor on Capitol Hill in Washington, Dec. 30, 2020.If the Senate approves the override, it would be the first time Congress has gone against a Trump veto during his four years in office.   Trump on Tuesday called the defense legislation a “disgraceful act of cowardice and total submission by weak people to Big Tech. Negotiate a better Bill, or get better leaders, NOW! Senate should not approve NDAA until fixed!!!″   The president has criticized the bill on several fronts, including saying it should include the repeal of a provision that protects social media companies from liability over content their users post. Trump has voiced his displeasure that Twitter has frequently labeled his claims that he was defrauded of reelection as “disputed.”   He also said the bill restricted his ability to bring U.S. troops home from “foreign lands who do NOTHING for us.”   And Trump has demanded the removal of language that allows the renaming of U.S. military bases that honor leaders of the Confederacy, which seceded from the United States in the early 1860s, before collapsing at the end of the Civil War in 1865.

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