Trump pushes for $ 2K checks because GOP-led Senate will not vote

WASHINGTON (AP) – Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell closes the door in addition to President Donald Trump’s $ 2,000 COVID-19 push relief, declaring that Congress has provided enough pandemic assistance as it has blocked another attempt by Democrats to force a vote.

The GOP leader made it clear on Wednesday that he was not prepared to move, despite political pressure from Trump and even some fellow Republican senators demanding action. Trump wants recent $ 600 aid tripled. But McConnell rejected the idea of ​​greater “survival checks” approved by the House, saying the money would go to many U.S. households who just don’t need it.

McConnell’s refusal to act means that the additional relief Trump wanted was anything but dead.

“We approved nearly a trillion dollars in aid a few days ago,” McConnell said, referring to the year-end package Trump signed.

McConnell added: “if specific, struggling households need even more help,” the Senate will consider ‘smart targeted assistance’. Not another fire hose of borrowed money. ”

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The showdown between the outgoing president and his own Republican Party over the $ 2,000 checks threw Congress into a chaotic year-end session just days before new lawmakers were sworn in.

This is a final departure, coupled with the dominance of Trump’s veto of a comprehensive defense bill, which would stipulate the last days of the president and deepen the separation of the IDP between his new wing of Trump-styled populists and what was the conservative stance on government spending.

Trump complained to GOP leaders and tweeted: “$ 2000 ASAP!”

Elected President Joe Biden also supports the payments and wants to build on what he calls an ‘installment’ for relief.

“In this moment of historic crisis and countless economic pain for countless American families, the President-elect is supporting $ 2,000 direct payments as accepted by the House,” said Andrew Bates, spokesman for the Biden Transition.

The roadblock imposed by Republicans of the Senate seems insurmountable. Most GOP senators apparently accepted the act, even as a growing number of Republicans, including two senators in the by-elections agrees with Trump’s demand on January 5 in Georgia, and some are wary of bowing to him.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the $ 600 checks would start going out on Wednesday. Congress decided on smaller payments in a compromise on the big year-end bill for COVID-19 and government funding that Trump reluctantly signed into law. Before Trump signed, however, he demanded more.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer for a second day in a row tried to force a vote on the bill passed by the House meeting Trump’s demand for the $ 2,000 checks.

“What we’re seeing right now is leader McConnell trying to kill the checks – the $ 2,000 checks that so many American families desperately need,” Schumer said.

In the run-up to Georgia’s Senate election days, leading Republicans have warned that the GOP’s refusal to provide more aid as the virus worsens could jeopardize the outcome of the race.

GOP-sense. Georgia’s David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler are trying to fend off Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock in the run-off election. which will determine which party has the Senate majority. The two Republicans announced support for Trump’s call for broader checks.

“Senate Republicans run the risk of throwing away two seats and Senate control,” former Congress leader Newt Gingrich told Fox News.

McConnell tried to protect his divided Republicans from a difficult vote. On Wednesday, he suggested he kept his word to begin a “process” to meet Trump’s demands, even if it meant no votes would be taken.

“It’s no secret that Republicans have a variety of views,” he said.

McConnell had earlier introduced a new bill with Trump’s other priorities as a possible exit for the deadlock. This included the $ 2,000 checks targeted at lower-income households, as well as a complicated recall of protection for technology enterprises such as Facebook or Twitter under section 230 of a communications law complained of by the president is unfair to conservatives. It also embarked on the establishment of a dual commission to review the 2020 presidential election. Trump loses to President-elect Joe Biden.

If McConnell votes on his bill, it could revive Trump’s priorities. But because the approach contains the additional provisions on technology and election, Democrats and some Republicans are likely to deviate, and it is unlikely to have enough support in Congress to succeed.

No additional votes on COVID-19 assistance were scheduled at this time. For McConnell, the procedure enabled him to tick the box about the commitments he made when Trump defiantly refused to sign off on the big year-end package last weekend. “It was a commitment, and that’s what happened,” he said.

Liberal senators, led by Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who support the relief effort, are blocking action on a defense bill until a vote on Trump’s $ 2,000 demand for most Americans.

Sanders thunders on the floor that McConnell should call his own voters in the GOP leader’s home state of Kentucky ‘and discover how they feel about the need for immediate assistance in terms of a $ 2,000 check.’

Republican senators Josh Hawley of Missouri and Marco Rubio of Florida, under the party’s potential hope in 2024, also pushed in the direction of the president. Hawley also leads Trump’s challenge on January 6 to the outcome of the election college in Congress.

Other Republicans pawned the larger checks, arguing during a lively Senate debate that the price of nearly $ 400 billion was too high; the relief is not aimed at the needy and Washington has already sent out sufficient amounts of COVID-19 aid.

Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., Tweeted that billions are “blindly borrowed” so that we can send $ 2,000 checks to millions of people who have not lost any income, is a terrible policy. “

Considered a long shot, Trump’s demand gained momentum earlier this week when dozens of House Republicans calculated it was better to liaise with most Democrats than to defy the outgoing president. They helped pass a bill that would increase payments with a strong two-thirds approval vote.

As Trump’s pressure expands, he seeks to modify the year-end package – $ 900 billion in COVID-19 aid and $ 1.4 trillion to fund the government agencies until September – will likely remain one last confrontation before the new congress is sworn in on Sunday.

The COVID-19 portion of the bill revives a weekly pandemic unemployment benefit increase – this time $ 300 to March 14 – as well as the popular salary protection program for grants to businesses to keep workers on the payroll. It expands eviction protections and adds a new fund for rental assistance.

Americans earning up to $ 75,000 qualify for the direct $ 600 payments, which are phased out at higher income levels, and there is an additional payment of $ 600 per dependent child.


Associated Press author Ashraf Khalil in Washington contributed to this report.