McConnell block House relief in Senate

By Jennifer Shutt
CQ-Roll Call/TNS

WASHINGTON - Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday blocked two Democratic attempts to approve a bill that would provide $2,000 tax rebate payments to Americans instead of the $600 lawmakers approved just last week.

McConnell first objected to a unanimous consent request from Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer that the chamber immediately pass the bill. He then objected to Sen. Bernie Sanders’ request that the Senate approve the bill after it votes to override President Donald Trump’s veto of the annual defense policy bill.

Sanders, I-Vt., then objected to McConnell’s attempts to set up a veto override vote on the defense bill Wednesday, likely delaying that vote until Jan. 1 at the earliest.

The impasse about when and how the Senate would bring up a bill to increase the direct payments will likely become intertwined with addressing election security and overhauling a 1996 law that provides some legal protections to social media companies and other websites for the content posted on their platforms.

Trump listed all three as issues he wants lawmakers to address when he signed the $1.4 trillion omnibus and coronavirus relief package into law on Sunday.

But Trump appeared ready to alienate many GOP lawmakers on Tuesday in a series of tweets calling party leaders “weak and tired” and saying overriding his veto was “a disgraceful act of cowardice.”

“Negotiate a better Bill, or get better leaders, NOW! Senate should not approve NDAA until fixed!!!” he wrote, using the acronym for the National Defense Authorization Act.

During his floor remarks, McConnell didn’t clarify exactly how the Senate will address those items, but he did say “this week the Senate will begin a process to bring these three priorities into focus.”

Schumer and Democrats rebuked McConnell for not allowing a quick vote on a bill the House passed with bipartisan support  in a 275-134 vote Monday.

“I don’t want to hear it that it costs too much to help working families get a check when they’re struggling to keep their jobs … pay their rent, feed their families and live a halfway normal and decent life,” Schumer said.

Sanders doubled down, saying, “Hunger in America is at the highest level that it has been for decades, with moms and dads struggling to feed their kids and working families lining up mile after mile to get emergency food packages.”

Several Republicans support the Senate approving $2,000 stimulus payments, especially after Trump posted several tweets demanding the bill’s approval.

Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., signaled to reporters Tuesday she’s open to approving the bill but indicated that she’s opposed to rolling all three issues together into one package.

“I don’t like everything rolled in together. I think you end up with bad policy,” Fischer said. “And I realize that in many cases you have to throw a lot of stuff in to get the votes, but we need to assume the responsibilities we’ve been given and really start to prioritize what the needs are of the people of this country.”

Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., who was pushing for the pandemic aid package to include $1,600 direct payments, took to Twitter to urge GOP leaders to quickly pass the bill that would provide $2,000 payments.

“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,” Hawley wrote.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has blocked the additional amount of relief passed by the House.