Mitch McConnell, Chuck Schumer Clash on Stimulus as Joe Manchin Seeks 'Targeted' Relief

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) gave competing takes on the stimulus package as the upper chamber prepares to take up Democrats' COVID-19 relief plans.

Democrats are moving to pass President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion package through budget reconciliation, which could allow them to get their plans through the Senate without any Republican support.

The House passed the stimulus bill last Friday, and its fate now rests with the Senate.

McConnell reiterated his characterization of this as a "partisan bill," and suggested that not enough money was going to the vaccine effort or to health.

"Liberal ideology, not families' needs," he said of the package in a tweet.

McConnell previously called the bill a "missed opportunity to meet Americans' needs."

His comments echo criticisms from other Republicans who have taken issue with aspects of the proposals.

Schumer insisted it will pass the Senate, which is evenly divided between Republicans and the Democratic caucus, the tie-breaking vote going to Vice President Kamala Harris.

"We are working to quickly pass the American Rescue Plan and deliver urgent, bold COVID relief to Americans across the country," he tweeted.

He subsequently wrote: "The Senate will take up the American Rescue Plan this week.

"And make no mistake: We will pass the bold COVID response Americans urgently need."

He also described defeating the pandemic as "national priority #1" as he spoke of the relief helping small businesses, providing aid and direct payments, and accelerating the distribution of the vaccine.

The debate in the Senate over the stimulus bill will begin this week.

A press release from the Senate Democrats, shared by Schumer's office, took aim at Republicans pushing against the bill and criticized McConnell.

"In the middle of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression and the worst public health crisis in a hundred years, Republicans say Democrats want to spend too much to confront the pandemic and insist that it is time to do less," the statement said.

"This is not a surprise – Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell spent much of last year insisting that a significant number of Republican Senators 'think we've done enough' to combat this historic crisis."

It also referred to polling that indicated public support for Biden's relief bill, including backing from those who identify as Republicans.

While Schumer is pushing for the bill to be passed, it will potentially see some changes in the Senate.

One point of contention is the move to raise the federal minimum wage to $15-an-hour, which is included in the legislation sent up by the House.

The $15 is set to be removed after the Senate parliamentarian ruled this should not be passed through budget reconciliation.

Progressive lawmakers have called for Harris to overrule the parliamentarian to keep this included, though the White House has indicated she will not do so.

Other lawmakers are pushing to make the final package more targeted in its relief. A group of Senate Democrats met with Biden on Monday to discuss altering aspects of the bill.

Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), who does not always vote on party lines, was among those meeting with Biden.

Manchin has frequently spoken of his desire to see spending be more focused. In comments to The Hill, he said that there were discussions to ensure the bill was "targeted."

He has previously suggested targeting stimulus checks more narrowly to facilitate bipartisan agreement on the issue of relief payments.

Manchin could prove a key vote on stimulus. In order for the Democrats to secure a majority without any Republican support in the Senate, they need their entire caucus to vote in unison.

Biden has been reportedly open to altering the thresholds around who gets stimulus checks, but not on reducing the $1,400 amount distributed in the payments.

Newsweek has contacted the lawmakers mentioned for comment.

mcconnell leaves office, walks to senate floor
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) leaves his office and walks to the Senate floor at the U.S. Capitol on February 8, 2021 in Washington, D.C. He has criticized Democrats' plans on COVID-19 relief. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

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