(Headline USA) President Donald Trump’s push for $2,000 COVID-19 relief checks all but died Wednesday as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell proposed an alternative approach of loading up the bill with other White House priorities.
The roadblock set 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 vote fraud that transpired in the 2020 election, as well as a repeal of Secton 230 protections for biased technology companies—likely does not have enough support to pass. No votes are scheduled.
“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—who previously admitted delaying a COVID relief deal until after the election so as not to benefit Trump—also volleyed for cheap political points.
“These Republicans in the Senate seem to have an endless tolerance for other people’s sadness,” the San Francisco liberal said.
Meanwhile, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said some of the $600 payments were being sent by direct deposit to Americans’ bank accounts Tuesday night.
Mnuchin tweeted that paper checks will begin to go out Wednesday.
Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press