In a bizarre statement before the Senate, McConnell suggested the income-capped stimulus checks would only benefit “Democrats’ rich friends.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has indefinitely blocked a vote on the $2,000 stimulus checks backed both by the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives and President Donald Trump.
McConnell, notes CNN, took the House floor early on Wednesday. The Kentucky Republican claimed that the House bill had “no realistic path to quickly pass the Senate.” He also claimed that the proposal was not what President Trump had in mind when he demanded Congress take action and approve larger individual payments.
“The Senate is not going to be bullied into rushing out more borrowed money into the hands of Democrats’ rich friends who don’t need the help,” McConnell said.
However, the House bill was remarkably simple—it requested only that the $600 stimulus checks approved over the weekend be increased to $2,000. And much like the $1,200 payments authorized by Congress in March, the full amount would only be available to people who earn $75,000 or less per year.
McConnell’s decision has, not surprisingly, been condemned by lawmakers on both sides of the political aisles.
McConnell’s immediate opponent, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), argued that legislators should at least be afforded the opportunity to vote on the House measure.
“At the very least, the Senate deserves the opportunity for an up-or-down vote,” Schumer said. “There is no other game in town than the House bill.”
True to his reputation, though, McConnell appears poised to play his own, particularly cynical brand of politics: rather than bringing the House bill to the floor as-is, the majority leader has prepared opposing legislation.
McConnell’s tentative proposal, notes CNN, would tie individual stimulus checks to two measures highly unpopular among Democrats: a repeal of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects websites from wrongdoing wrought on their platforms by third parties, and an investigation into the 2020 election.
Since McConnell can expect Democrats to vote against such a measure, he would be able to blame his liberal opponents for “blocking payments” to hardworking Americans.
While some Republicans—such as Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley—have sided with Democrats, most of their caucus has not vocally opposed McConnell.
That task has, for the most part, been left to Democrats such as Sen. Schumer and Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Sanders, adds Newsweek, publicly vowed to filibuster a massive Senate defense bill unless McConnell schedules a vote on stimulus checks. This unusual move—rare among liberal politicians, who have, for decades, been inclined to cave to hardline conservative demands in the name of “compromise”—won praise from left-wing activist and organizations.
“Bernie Sanders is a national treasure,” wrote the Gravel Institute on Twitter.
The Institute also praised Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey, who escalated Sanders’ demands and suggested the Pentagon lose its funding to provide much-needed financial relief to ordinary Americans.
“If we get the $2,000 checks, Bernie Sanders and Ed Markey will be national heroes,” Gravel suggested.
In the meantime, though, it appears McConnell will do what McConnell has always done best—nothing.