McConnell Rules Out Passing House Bill With $2,000 Payments
Senator Bernie Sanders, an Independent from Vermont, wears a protective mask while talking with a member of the media in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S. (Photographer: Ting Shen/Bloomberg)

McConnell Rules Out Passing House Bill With $2,000 Payments

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Wednesday closed off chances of the Senate acting anytime soon on a House bill that would give most Americans $2,000 stimulus payments.

The Kentucky Republican said the House legislation, approved in a bipartisan vote Monday, “has no realistic path” to quick passage in the Senate and that it falls short of the demands of President Donald Trump. He again blocked an attempt by Democratic leader Chuck Schumer to adopt the House bill to increase the payments to $2,000 from the $600 by unanimous consent.

The Senate instead will work on combining the stimulus payments with measures on election integrity and rolling back social media liability protections, he said. That responds to all three issues Trump has said he wants, but a bill melding them likely will alienate enough senators in both parties to leave prospects for bigger stimulus payments dead in the Senate.

“The Senate is not going to be bullied into rushing out more borrowed money into the hands of the Democrats’ rich friends who don’t need the help,” McConnell said. The House bill would raise the income cutoff to receive a payment.

The clash over the payments also is entangling another piece of year-end business in the Senate -- a vote to override Trump’s veto of a $740.5 billion defense policy bill. Senators Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Ed Markey of Massachusetts said they would continue to delay the defense legislation vote unless McConnell relents and allows a vote on a standalone bill on the bigger stimulus checks.

“We are saying to Mitch McConnell, to allow the United States Senate to do what it’s supposed to do, and that is the vote,” Sanders told reporters. “The House passed the bill, it’s over here right now. Do you want to vote against it? Then vote against it.”

Pennsylvania Republican Senator Pat Toomey later blocked an attempt by Sanders to call up the House bill for a roll call vote.

Trump’s Pressure

McConnell and many other Republicans oppose taking up the House legislation despite increasingly angry statements by Trump urging the Senate to raise the stimulus payments to $2,000 from the $600 that was in the bill he signed into law on Sunday.

“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! 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!” Trump tweeted on Tuesday, repeating his unfounded claim of election fraud in November.

That’s created a bind for the GOP. Georgia Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler came out in favor of the higher payments on Tuesday as they campaigned in a close contest that will be settled in a Jan. 5 runoff. Their Democratic opponents, Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, had previously endorsed the $2,000 checks. The runoff will determine control of the Senate.

Other Republican also are publicly on board, including Marco Rubio of Florida and Missouri’s Josh Hawley, both of whom are potential contenders for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination.

Republican critics of the House measure have focused on a feature of the bill which allows some payments to go to people with six-figure incomes.

Income Limits

Married couples with a combined adjusted gross income of $150,000 or less and individuals who make $75,000 or less annually would be eligible for the full $2,000 per person amount. The payments are less for higher incomes, based on family size. For example, a single adult earning less than $115,000, a married couple earning up to $230,000, and a family of four with as much as $310,000 in annual income would get a portion of the $2,000 per person.

“The problem with $2,000 is not targeted. It goes to people who didn’t lose any money,” said Senator Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Republican. “If we are going to spend that much money my preference is to target it.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sidestepped a question about whether she would try to revive the legislation when the new Congress convenes after Jan. 3 if the Senate doesn’t act this week.

The legislation “would have bipartisan support in the Senate if Mitch McConnell would only allow it to come to the floor instead of being an obstruction to those checks going to the American people.” she said at her weekly news conference.

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