Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday blocked efforts by Sen. Bernie Sanders and Democratic lawmakers to advance a House-approved measure that would provide one-time $2,000 direct payments to most Americans.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) requested unanimous consent for immediate consideration and passage of the popular direct payments, but McConnell objected without comment.
NEW: Senate Minority Leader Schumer attempts to pass House-backed legislation to increase Covid stimulus payments from $600 to $2,000 by unanimous consent.
Senate Majority Leader McConnell objects. pic.twitter.com/gY6gonXIW8
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) December 29, 2020
Following the Kentucky Republican's objection, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) spoke up to prevent McConnell from moving ahead with Senate business, declaring that it is time for the chamber "to step up to the plate and do what the working families of this country overwhelmingly want us to do."
"Working families need help now. Not next year, now," said the Vermont senator, who has vowed to filibuster the annual military spending bill in an effort to force a vote on the direct payments.
When Sanders requested unanimous consent for a clean up-or-down vote on the $2,000 checks, McConnell objected once again.
We are coming to the close of one of the most tragic years in our history. The American people are hurting. They need help.
The House overwhelmingly passed $2,000 direct checks.
Mitch McConnell: We cannot turn our backs on working families. Let the Senate vote on $2,000 checks. pic.twitter.com/rBANV9bOW2
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) December 29, 2020
Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) joined his Senate colleagues in demanding that the chamber approve the House-passed measure.
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"People will spend this money," Markey said. "They need it for the necessities that are confronting their families right now."
McConnell's objections came shortly after Republican Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler of Georgia both expressed support for the $2,000 direct payments as they fight for their political lives in runoff contests against Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock. The two Democratic challengers endorsed the $2,000 payments last week.
As The Daily Poster's David Sirota pointed out, Perdue and Loeffler "are not saying they will back Sen. Bernie Sanders' move to force a vote—they are only indicating that they would support the legislation if it somehow happens to make it to the Senate floor."
"That's the tell here—it signals that these two aristocrats still aren't serious and that these gestures are fraudulent in comparison to what they could do," Sirota added. "The theatrical performance of Georgia's Republican senators pretending to support the initiative while doing nothing to force a vote almost makes you wonder if these two notorious wheeler dealers are quietly day trading on poverty futures."
Sanders and Senate Democrats are expected to continue attempting to force a vote on the House-passed legislation in the coming hours and days, if necessary. The bill, known as the CASH Act, would increase the one-time direct payments in the new coronavirus relief law from $600 to $2,000.
Loeffler, Perdue, Rubio and Hawley are for $2,000 checks
8 more Republicans needed if all Dems are yes.
— Jake Sherman (@JakeSherman) December 29, 2020
McConnell suggested Tuesday that he might attempt to lump together several of President Donald Trump's demands, including the $2,000 checks, an investigation into the "sanctity" of U.S. elections, and an examination of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.
But Senate Democrats have made clear that they will only accept a vote on the stand-alone measure overwhelmingly passed by the House late Monday with bipartisan support.
"Anything less than a clean vote on the $2,000 payment bill is a deliberate attempt to submarine the payments," Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) tweeted Tuesday. "There's four days left in this Congress—there is no way to start from scratch and negotiate a new bill. McConnell knows this."