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McConnell dashes hopes for $2,000 coronavirus relief checks in standalone bill

Senate debates stimulus checks, defense bill
Senate debates larger stimulus checks and defense spending bill 11:22

Washington — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday again rebuffed a push for the Senate to take up a bill increasing coronavirus relief checks to Americans from $600 to $2,000, calling the proposal "socialism for rich people."

This was the third day in a row that McConnell blocked an attempt by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to bring the legislation forward by unanimous consent. McConnell had previously proposed that the increased direct payments would remain linked with nixing a legal shield for internet companies and creating a commission to examine election integrity.

Schumer said in a statement on Thursday that he wanted a vote on a standalone bill passed in the House to give Americans $2,000 in direct payments after President Trump made a last-minute demand for more money last week, nearly derailing a $900 billion coronavirus relief measure that was combined with a $1.4 trillion government spending bill. The bill passed 275-134, with 44 Republicans voting in favor of the legislation.

"If leader McConnell wants a vote on these issues, we're here for it. Just give us a vote on the House-passed bill and we can vote on whatever right-wing conspiracy theory you'd like," Schumer said on Thursday.

"Here is the deal," McConnell said in remarks on the Senate floor. "The Senate is not going to split apart the three issues that President Trump linked together just because Democrats are afraid to address two of them."

The Senate, the Kentucky Republican continued, "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 poured cold water on hopes the Senate would approve the $2,000 stimulus checks through the bill passed by the House on Monday, saying it "has no realistic path to quickly pass" the upper chamber.

Senate Democrats urged McConnell to bring the bill to the floor for a vote, and several GOP senators backed the $2,000 payments, including Georgia Senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, who are competing in a pair of runoff elections that will determine which party controls the Senate. But on Tuesday, McConnell instead unveiled a new bill lumping the higher checks with two items important to Mr. Trump: a repeal of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act and the creation of a commission to study voter fraud and election integrity. 

McConnell's legislation, however, is highly unlikely to become law because the latter two issues are so-called "poison pills" that will not be supported by Democrats, making passage by the House next to impossible.

Section 230 protects internet companies from being held liable for content posted by third parties, but Republicans believe it has allowed social media companies to censor conservative viewpoints and voices.

Schumer on Wednesday again urged McConnell to allow the Senate to vote to approve only the $2,000 checks, saying "there is no other game in town beside the House bill."

"At the very least, the Senate deserves the opportunity for an up-or-down vote on increasing the individual payments to the American people," he said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also implored McConnell not to block the $2,000 relief checks.

"Mitch McConnell, remove the obstacle that you have to the American people having the opportunity to have that direct payment, and do it now," she said.

Mr. Trump, who is still in Florida at his property Mar-a-Lago, has continued to push for the $2,000 checks, tweeting Wednesday morning, "$2000 ASAP!"

Although McConnell argued that the bill would benefit the wealthy, he had previously supported the $1 trillion 2017 tax cut which disproportionately benefited the wealthy.

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