McConnell Blocks $2,000 Covid Relief Checks

McConnell Blocks $2,000 Covid Relief Checks

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Plus, why we're falling short on vaccinations
Tuesday, December 29, 2020

McConnell Blocks $2,000 Covid Relief Checks

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on Tuesday blocked an attempt by Democrats to pass a bill that would increase coronavirus relief payments from $600 to $2,000 for most Americans.

McConnell objected to calls by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) for unanimous consent to approve the $2,000 payments. In a bit of parliamentary maneuvering, Sanders then blocked McConnell’s bid to unanimously override President Trump’s veto of the National Defense Authorization Act, tying to the two issues together while leaving both in limbo with just a few days left before the 116th Congress comes to a close on Sunday.

Both the $2,000 payments and the NDAA veto override were passed by the House on Monday. The larger stimulus checks passed 275-134, with 44 Republicans joining 231 Democrats in favor of the increased payments and 130 Republicans opposed. House lawmakers voted 322-87 to override Trump's veto of the defense bill.

The congressional Joint Committee on Taxation said Monday that increasing the direct payments from $600 to $2,000 and expanding eligibility as the House-passed bill did would cost $464 billion.

McConnell’s strategy: Speaking on the floor of the Senate, McConnell recognized that Trump had demanded that the coronavirus relief legislation, which was signed into law on Sunday, include the $2,000 payments. He also referred to two of Trump’s other complaints about the bill: that it failed to remove legal protections for tech firms contained in Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act or provide for further investigations of alleged 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, while remaining vague about how those issues — and the timing of votes — might play out.

McConnell’s on Tuesday reportedly filed a bill tying the $2,000 payments — which he and other Republican leaders oppose — to Trump’s additional demands.

The move is sure to undermine support for the bill among Democrats, who are unlikely to vote in favor of eliminating Section 230 or opening investigations into the recent election. In a statement, Schumer said that McConnell’s combined bill "will not pass the House and cannot become law – any move like this by Sen. McConnell would a blatant attempt to deprive Americans of a $2,000 survival check."

Trump responds:
The president replied to McConnell’s vote block in a tweet: “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.”

Trump also attacked Republican leaders, calling them “weak and tired” for allowing the override vote on the NDAA to proceed.

Strange bedfellows:
The conflict is creating some unusual alliances, with Democrats backing Trump on the larger relief payments and GOP leaders threatening to defy a president they have been loath to cross in the past.

While most Republican senators oppose the effort to increase the relief payments, a handful have expressed support, including Sens. Josh Hawley (R-MO) and Marco Rubio (R-FL). Facing runoff elections next week, GOP Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler of Georgia have also recently gotten behind the effort.

What’s next: McConnell may have effectively killed off the $2,000 checks since his combined bill won’t pass the Senate and the House is done for the year.

A Senate vote to override the NDAA is now delayed until January 1 at the earliest, Roll Call said, and senators my now face several days of debate and maneuvering on the relief payments.

“McConnell’s move was just the beginning of a saga that is likely to engulf the Senate for the rest of the week,” The Washington Post’s Mike DeBonis and Tony Romm reported.

Quote of the Day: Falling Short on Covid Shots

“It’s not like we didn’t know vaccines were coming. It’s not like this has caught us off guard. Two things have gone on. One is we have not gotten the vaccines out to states as quickly as we were promised. But that to me is the less important issue. The more important issue is that there really has not been much of a plan on what happens after the vaccine arrives in states. How do we get it into people’s arms? We just left it up to states and states are really stretched, we’ve given them very little money. We’re repeating all the mistakes we made with PPEs and testing all over again.”

Dr. Ashish Jha, Dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, on NBC’s “Today” show. The United States is set to fall well short of its goal to vaccinate 20 million Americans by the end of the year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that 11.4 million doses of vaccine had been distributed and 2.1 million initial doses had been administered as of Monday morning.

Number of the Day: 400,000

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now forecasts that the United States will reach 400,000 coronavirus deaths by January 20, when President Trump leaves office.

Bloomberg News lays out how the death toll has accelerated: “The country surpassed 100,000 deaths in May, and 200,000 four months later. It passed 300,000 in three months, and 400,000 looks set to take just one month” based on CDC modeling.

A programming note: We'll be back in your inbox on Monday. Here's hoping for a healthy and happy 2021 — and that the new year is better in every way. It has to be, right? Right?

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