Will U.S. Senate vote for Trump's $2,000 COVID relief checks?

Followed by a staffer holding a bag, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., right, leaves the Capitol for the day, Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2020, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Followed by a staffer holding a bag, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., right, leaves the Capitol for the day, Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2020, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Majority Leader McConnell trying to tie aid to more controversial proposals.

Posted: Dec 30, 2020 7:26 AM
Updated: Dec 30, 2020 11:08 AM

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump's push for $2,000 COVID-19 relief checks was all but dead Wednesday as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell proposed an alternative approach of loading up the bill with other White House priorities that appeared destined to fail.

The roadblock mounted by Senate Republicans appears unsurmountable, even as pressure builds to approve the bigger checks. Trump wants the Republican-led chamber to follow the House and increase the checks from $600 for millions of Americans. A growing number of Republicans, including two senators in runoff elections on Jan. 5 in Georgia, agree. But most GOP senators oppose more spending, even if they are also wary of bucking Trump.

Senators will be back at it after McConnell blocked a vote Tuesday, but his new bill — which includes the formation of a commission to investigate the 2020 election as well as a complicated repeal of big tech liability protections — does not have enough support to pass.

“What we’re seeing right now is Leader McConnell trying to kill the checks — the $2,000 checks desperately needed by so many American families,” Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said at the Capitol.

The showdown over the $2,000 checks has thrown Congress into a chaotic year-end session just days before new lawmakers are set to be sworn into office for the new year. It’s preventing action on another priority — overturning Trump’s veto on a sweeping defense bill that has been approved every year for 60 years.

Trump has berated Republican leaders for the stonewalling, finding rare common cause with the Democrats pushing them to act. Leading Republicans warned that the GOP's refusal to provide more aid as the virus worsens will jeopardize next week's Senate election in Georgia.

“The Senate Republicans risk throwing away two seats and control of the Senate," said Newt Gingrich, the former congressional leader, on Fox News. He called on Senate Republicans to “get a grip and not try to play cute parliamentary games with the president’s $2,000 payment.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, “These Republicans in the Senate seem to have an endless tolerance for other people’s sadness.”

Meanwhile, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said some of the $600 payments were being sent by direct deposit to Americans’ bank accounts as early as Tuesday night. Mnuchin tweeted that paper checks will begin to go out Wednesday.

Saying little, McConnell is trying to provide an offramp for GOP senators to avoid a tough vote. Republicans are split between those who align with Trump’s populist instincts and those who adhere to what had been more traditional conservative views against government spending.

Congress had settled on smaller $600 payments in a compromise over the big, year-end relief bill Trump reluctantly signed into law.

The GOP leader filed new legislation late Tuesday linking the president's demand for bigger checks with two other Trump priorities — repealing protections for tech companies like Facebook or Twitter that the president complained are unfair to conservatives as well the establishment of a bipartisan commission to review the 2020 presidential election he lost to President-elect Joe Biden.

Liberal senators led by Bernie Sanders of Vermont who support the relief aid are blocking action on the defense bill until a vote can be taken on Trump's demand for $2,000 for most Americans.

"The working class of this country today faces more economic desperation than at any time since the Great Depression of the 1930s," Sanders said. “Working families need help now.” He also tried to force a vote on the relief checks, but McConnell objected a second time.

The GOP blockade is causing turmoil for some as the virus crisis worsens nationwide and Trump amplifies his unexpected demands.

The two GOP senators from Georgia, David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, announced Tuesday they support Trump's plan for bigger checks as they face Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock in runoff elections that will determine which party controls the Senate.

Republican Sens. Josh Hawley of Missouri and Marco Rubio of Florida, among the party's potential 2024 presidential hopefuls, also are pushing the party in the president's direction.

Other Republicans panned the bigger checks, saying the nearly $400 billion price tag was too high, the relief is not targeted to those in need and Washington has already dispatched ample sums on COVID aid.

In the House, dozens of Republicans calculated it was better to link with Democrats to increase the pandemic payments rather than buck the outgoing president and constituents counting on the money. House Democrats led passage, 275-134, but 44 Republicans joined almost all Democrats on Monday for a robust two-thirds vote of approval.

It's highly likely that McConnell will set up votes ahead on both the House-passed measure supporting Trump’s $2,000 checks as well as his own new version, as a way to give senators a chance to show they took action.

That's a process that almost ensures neither bill will pass.

Trump's push could fizzle out in the Senate but the debate over the size and scope of the year-end package — $900 billion in COVID-19 aid and $1.4 trillion to fund government agencies through September — is potentially one last confrontation before the new Congress is sworn in Sunday.

The COVID-19 portion of the bill revives a weekly pandemic jobless benefit boost — this time $300, through March 14 — as well as the popular Paycheck Protection Program of grants to businesses to keep workers on payrolls. It extends eviction protections, adding a new rental assistance fund.

Americans earning up to $75,000 will qualify for the direct $600 payments, which are phased out at higher income levels, and there's an additional $600 payment per dependent child.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 593622

Reported Deaths: 7379
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1228171731
Ramsey51446875
Dakota45976452
Anoka41782439
Washington26948283
Stearns22266222
St. Louis17787304
Scott17296124
Wright16082140
Olmsted1325598
Sherburne1173087
Carver1050745
Clay816392
Rice8063107
Blue Earth751541
Crow Wing666290
Kandiyohi656283
Chisago601351
Otter Tail575478
Benton571697
Goodhue478572
Douglas468575
Mower466232
Winona455050
Itasca439156
McLeod424559
Isanti422464
Morrison419660
Nobles408048
Beltrami397059
Steele388715
Polk384868
Becker380953
Lyon361051
Carlton345654
Freeborn342029
Pine329022
Nicollet326243
Brown305440
Mille Lacs305053
Le Sueur292423
Todd282432
Cass273428
Meeker256640
Waseca236322
Martin230732
Roseau209419
Wabasha20613
Hubbard190041
Dodge18513
Renville180343
Redwood174337
Houston171916
Cottonwood165823
Fillmore156510
Wadena155922
Pennington153719
Faribault152419
Chippewa152338
Kanabec144726
Sibley143810
Aitkin135036
Watonwan13289
Rock128319
Jackson121812
Pipestone115926
Yellow Medicine114120
Pope11056
Murray10639
Swift105618
Stevens91411
Marshall88117
Clearwater86916
Koochiching83615
Wilkin81612
Lake81120
Lac qui Parle75322
Big Stone6004
Lincoln5813
Grant5788
Mahnomen5539
Norman5399
Unassigned49293
Kittson48622
Red Lake3977
Traverse3705
Lake of the Woods3253
Cook1640

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 367236

Reported Deaths: 5940
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk57666626
Linn20892335
Scott20060241
Black Hawk15824308
Woodbury15138228
Johnson1449183
Dubuque13380208
Dallas1118398
Pottawattamie11132168
Story1062348
Warren577988
Clinton555893
Cerro Gordo540689
Sioux514474
Webster512293
Marshall483075
Muscatine481399
Des Moines458066
Wapello4303122
Buena Vista424840
Jasper419372
Plymouth401280
Lee376055
Marion362875
Jones299057
Henry291937
Carroll285752
Bremer284860
Crawford266240
Boone265034
Benton256655
Washington254050
Dickinson248543
Mahaska230451
Jackson222142
Clay215725
Kossuth215564
Tama209871
Delaware209741
Winneshiek196835
Page192722
Buchanan191432
Cedar190023
Hardin185643
Fayette185141
Wright184737
Hamilton180049
Harrison179673
Clayton169556
Butler165034
Madison162519
Mills162422
Floyd161142
Cherokee158938
Lyon158241
Poweshiek154934
Allamakee151451
Iowa148824
Hancock148434
Winnebago142531
Cass138654
Calhoun138513
Grundy136333
Emmet134240
Jefferson132435
Shelby131137
Sac130419
Union128333
Louisa128149
Appanoose128049
Mitchell126442
Chickasaw124116
Guthrie121530
Franklin120721
Humboldt119126
Palo Alto112823
Howard104622
Montgomery103338
Clarke100224
Unassigned9710
Keokuk96031
Monroe95329
Ida90435
Adair86532
Pocahontas85522
Davis83024
Monona82730
Osceola78716
Greene77710
Lucas77223
Worth7478
Taylor66012
Fremont6229
Decatur6089
Ringgold55824
Van Buren55818
Wayne53923
Audubon51010
Adams3384
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