Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell again blocked quick action on $2,000 coronavirus stimulus checks on the Senate floor Thursday as he traded harsh words with Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.
McConnell, R-Ky., in floor remarks lambasted the House-passed bill for $2,000 stimulus checks as “socialism for rich people.” The comments were his most direct to date on his opposition to President Trump’s request that stimulus checks be boosted from $600 in the recently passed stimulus.
“The data show that many upper-middle class Americans have kept their job, work remotely and remain totally financially comfortable,” McConnell said. “On the other hand, some of our fellow citizens have had their entire existence is turned upside down and continue to suffer terribly. We do not need to let the speaker of the House do socialism for rich people in order to help those who need help.”
The majority leader earlier this week introduced his own bill for $2,000 stimulus checks, tying them to other Trump priorities: repealing controversial Section 230 liability protections for online platforms and investigating election security. He made no promises that the bill would be considered, only vague comments that the Senate would “begin a process to bring these three priorities into focus.”
McConnell also Wednesday emphasized that just this week the president signed a $900 billion stimulus package that included “targeted” stimulus efforts.
“The liberal New York Times reported this morning that a majority of the households that get non-targeted checks do not end up spending them on urgent needs,” McConnell said, before detailing the provisions in the recent stimulus bill. “There are billions for targeted food assistance, billions for targeted rental assistance, and many billions of dollars vaccine distribution so we can finally beat this virus and re-open the economy in full. These are the kinds of targeted emergency programs that directly help the most vulnerable. And we just poured almost another trillion dollars into them less than five days ago.”
Schumer, D-N.Y., replied that McConnell is just trying to stall to prevent the checks from being passed. He said the majority leader’s insistence that the Senate only consider checks along with Section 230 and election security would make it impossible for anything to become law.
“Let me make this offer to the Republican majority. We’re willing to vote on the other issues that President Trump mentioned. All the issues the Republican leader says must be addressed, so long as we vote on them separately,” Schumer said. “If Leader McConnell wants a vote on these issues, we’re here for it. Just give us a vote on the House-passed bill and we can vote on whatever right-wing conspiracy theory you’d like.”
Schumer then requested that the Senate quickly vote on the House bill on $2,000 stimulus checks. McConnell objected.
Soon after Schumer spoke, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., also moved to quickly vote on the House bill for stimulus checks. McConnell objected to that, too.
Sanders said McConnell’s move to tie $2,000 checks to Section 230 repeal and a voter fraud commission is a “poison pill designed to kill that legislation.”
McConnell’s resistance to $2,000 checks comes despite calls for the checks by Trump since shortly after Congress sent him the earlier stimulus bill with $600 checks. Trump has become increasingly frustrated with his fellow Republicans in recent weeks and directed a significant amount of that at top Senate Republicans.
“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!” Trump tweeted earlier this week. “Also, get rid of Section 230 – Don’t let Big Tech steal our Country, and don’t let the Democrats steal the Presidential Election. Get tough!”
He added later: “$2000ASAP!”
The uproar over the stimulus checks came on what was scheduled to be a relatively tame Thursday in the upper chamber, as it’s prioritized overriding President Trump’s veto of the National Defense Authorization Act.
The Senate had no scheduled votes for Thursday. McConnell filed a “cloture petition” on the NDAA veto override Wednesday, which cannot be voted on until two days after it is filed. The Senate is currently scheduled to take its cloture vote — meaning a procedural vote to end debate — on the NDAA Friday, which would set up a final vote Saturday.
Between the Senate needing to pass the NDAA before the current Congress ends at noon on Sunday and McConnell’s stalling tactics, it is now highly unlikely that the Senate will even make it to a vote on $2,000 stimulus checks, let alone pass them.
Fox News’ Chad Pergram contributed to this report.