Democrats' Attempts to Revive $2,000 Stimulus Checks Shot Down by Mitch McConnell

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell again rejected a plan backed by Democrats and President Donald Trump to bump up the latest round of stimulus checks for Americans to $2,000 on Thursday, as the Senate works through the new year.

"Washington Democrats took President Trump's suggestion and skewed it so the checks would benefits high-earning households," McConnell (R-Kentucky) said from the Senate floor. "Socialism for rich people—that's what Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi and Senator [Bernie] Sanders have sketched out."

Negotiations continue behind the scenes, but the Senate ends its term on Sunday. The new Congress could take up the proposal again after it's sworn in, but the process would have to restart.

A $9 trillion stimulus bill that Trump signed on Sunday provides for $600 per person coronavirus relief direct payment for most Americans. In signing the bill, Trump said he didn't think that $600 was enough and pressed Congress to boost it to $2,000. The Democrat-controlled House passed the increase bill on Monday before ending the term. However, McConnell has used procedural maneuvers to block the GOP-controlled Senate from taking a vote on the bill, arguing that other unrelated provisions that are also priorities for the president should be considered.

"There's no House to send it to and no time to pass it," Senator Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) said on the Senate floor of McConnell's alternate bill that would tie the other issues to the stimulus check.

The House version of the bill would set income limits for the stimulus checks at $75,000 for individuals or $150,000 for couples.

McConnell has argued that the caps are too high and allow wealthy people to benefit who don't need the money.

"Our colleagues who purport to be the champions of vulnerable Americans now say that what struggling people really need is for Congress to stop focusing on targeted relief for them specifically and to instead send thousands of dollars to people who don't need the help," he said Thursday.

To pass the Senate, the bill would need 60 votes, requiring some Republicans to join the Democratic minority but McConnell hasn't scheduled a vote. Several, including Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue who are in heated election campaigns in Georgia next week, have said they will vote for the bill.

"All we are asking is give us the opportunity to vote up or down," Sanders (I-Vermont) said Thursday. "What's the problem?"

Trump, who returned Thursday from holiday vacation at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida ahead of schedule, hasn't responded to the latest block from McConnell but has repeatedly tweeted in recent days that the Senate Republicans should act to approve the stimulus increase.

"$2000 ASAP!" he tweeted Wednesday.

US Capitol
The US Capitol building is seen on a cold and sunny winter day as Congress is in session in Washington on December 29, 2020. Eric BARADAT / AFP/Getty