Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) attends a press conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on October 20, 2020.
Erin Scott | Reuters
Efforts to raise direct payments in the coronavirus bill to $ 2,000 by the end of the year failed on Wednesday as Republican leaders and Senate Democrats were divided over whether to take further relief efforts.
The Democratic House has passed a stand-alone bill to increase checks from $ 600 to $ 2,000 as 44 Republicans, backed by President Donald Trump, joined almost all of the Democrats to back the move. The GOP-controlled Senate has shown less of an appetite to pass the checks without setting other Trump priorities that the Democrats consider toxic – and would sink any legislation.
At the same time, the finance department began sending payments up to $ 600 on Tuesday evening. If Congress can break through the thorny political momentum to increase deposits to $ 2,000, the government would later add to the money already distributed.
On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Introduced a bill to increase payments to $ 2,000, but also to repeal Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects legal liability for internet platforms , and a commission for voters set up fraud. The President has pushed for the latter provision as he claims without evidence that a widespread fraud cost him the 2020 presidential race against President-elect Joe Biden.
Chuck Schumer, chairman of the Senate Minority, DN.Y., said Tuesday that linking other proposals to the direct monetary measure “would be an obvious attempt to strip Americans of a $ 2,000 survival check.”
McConnell on Tuesday blocked efforts by the Democrats to quickly hand over the $ 2,000 checks. He has attempted to offset a desire not to immediately increase the price of the $ 900 billion bailout while appeasing a GOP president who has fixated on sending more direct payments to struggling Americans.
House spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi called on the Senate Wednesday to approve the standalone bill before the new Congress begins on Sunday at 12:00 PM ET.
“I hope that in the coming days – we only have a few days left in the session – you will see the light and understand the suffering that is going on in this country,” said the California Democrat of the Republicans.
Meanwhile, Senator Pat Toomey, R-Pa., Has announced that he will block a possible vote on the $ 2,000 payments. Delays could blow up efforts to get legislation passed during the current session.
“There is no point in having these universal payments. Any relief should be targeted,” he told CNBC on Wednesday morning.
The Senate has not yet voted to overturn Trump’s veto of the annual National Defense Authorization Act. McConnell called lawmakers back this week to do so. While the chamber plans to take procedural steps on Wednesday to get a vote, it may not be able to override the veto until Saturday.
Senator Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Blocked swift examination of the defense measure Tuesday when he called for a vote on the standalone bill to increase direct payments to $ 2,000. Later in the day, he told CNN that “I think we have the votes to pass bigger checks” if McConnell puts the measure to the vote.
At least four Republican senators – Josh Hawley from Missouri, Marco Rubio from Florida, and Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue from Georgia – have expressed support for larger payments. Loeffler and Perdue are fighting a runoff election on January 5 to determine which party will control the Senate for the next two years. Hawley and Rubio are considered potential GOP candidates for president in 2024.
Trump continues to urge Congress to approve $ 2,000 checks after threatening to veto the relief bill for lacking direct money for Americans. He gave in and signed it on Sunday.
On Wednesday Trump tweeted: “$ 2000 ASAP!”
Senate controls controversy has lasted for more than eight months, with no quarreling on Capitol Hill over how far the federal government should go to stimulate the economy and health system during the pandemic. The Democrats have been pressing for trillion more aid since May, two months after Congress passed the $ 2 trillion CARES bill. Republicans again called for more relief in July and never raised their price above $ 1 trillion.
Lawmakers then failed to approve a new relief for months before settling on the $ 900 billion package that was passed this month. They left lifelines like the $ 600 per week unemployment benefit and the unsuccessful small business loan application window that helped lift millions out of poverty and keep business doors open in the early days of the pandemic, on the route.
The new bailout package, which was passed in the same legislation as a regular government spending plan of $ 1.4 trillion, renews some provisions from the spring. Unemployment is expected to increase by USD 300 per week by mid-March. The payment is half what unemployed Americans received from the CARES Act.
It also expands provisions that allow gig, freelancers, and self-employed people to take out unemployment insurance and increases the maximum number of benefit weeks.
The bill sends $ 600 direct payments to most Americans. The total is half of the $ 1,200 contained in the CARES Act.
In addition, more than $ 300 billion is being allocated to small business support, primarily through $ 284 billion in loans for the paycheck protection program. It includes $ 8 billion for vaccine distribution as states struggle to keep up with early vaccinations.
The move brings in $ 82 billion in education and $ 45 billion in transportation. It does not include state and local aid, a measure that Democrats and many Republicans are pulling back to prevent layoffs from state payrolls.
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