What Mitch McConnell Has Said About $2,000 Stimulus Checks for Americans

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell slid in on Tuesday and blocked Senate passage of a bill supported by both Democrats and President Donald Trump. The bill would increase the size of direct payments from $600 to $2,000 for Americans struggling in the nine-month pandemic.

McConnell headed off Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer's move to pass the $2,000 checks legislation through unanimous consent, with the GOP leader declining even to consider a possible vote on the measure. Trump, who said "Republicans have a death wish" if they don't approve $2,000 payments, has formed a rare alliance with House and Senate Democrats also calling for increased checks to Americans. The bill remains in limbo Tuesday afternoon, but McConnell's months-long stance against direct payments of any kind remained consistent until Congress finally passed the $900 billion pandemic relief package last week.

Among his many previous oppositional remarks to direct payments or boosted unemployment, McConnell has consistently held the stance that both checks to individuals would create a disincentive for people to go back to work.

McConnell described Democratic calls for increased unemployment benefits back in May "crazy policy," and outright declared that a $600 weekly boost "will not be in the next bill." About seven months later, the House and Senate finally agreed on $600 direct payments, after which Trump suddenly joined Democrats in wanting it raised to $2,000.

Back in May, McConnell called for a "pause" and squashed all discussion of a second major coronavirus relief bill for several weeks. He highlighted how the March CARES Act passed two months prior was too expensive and said a second package must be "narrowly crafted." Speaking with Fox News in May, McConnell said he supported weekly unemployment insurance, but planned to discontinue the weekly $600 payments from the CARES Act by July.

McConnell rejected several bipartisan stimulus plans, including an early December $908 stimulus package. He again demanded a narrower, "targeted relief bill."

McConnell has so far only offered a vague opinion of the bill he blocked Tuesday, defending the move by saying the Senate needs time to "begin a process" that will likely delay any decision until after the upcoming Georgia Senate runoff elections. McConnell led Senate Republicans last week in helping to push the massive spending package through despite insistent opposition to the increased direct payments from himself and GOP lawmakers in both chambers.

The House passed the $600 to $1,2000 check increase Monday, setting up McConnell's much-predicted step of halting the bill entirely.

"Why didn't Senator McConnell announce the schedule for the vote on a $2,000 checks bill?" Senator Chris Murphy asked on the floor of the Senate Tuesday, expressing frustration at McConnell for ignoring the measure.

"I don't want to hear that we can't afford it," Schumer told reporters after McConnell blocked the bill, highlighting GOP-led criticisms that direct payments would expand the national deficit even further.

Some conservatives this week complained that Trump is "lashing out" about his election loss and will instead lose the GOP Senate majority by cornering McConnell and Senate Republicans to vote for the $2,000 checks. This comes just days before the decisive Georgia Senate runoffs on January 5, in which two seats will decide the majority party.

Despite McConnell's stonewall of the $2,000 checks bill in the Senate, some Republican senators including Marco Rubio said they support such a measure.

The fate of the bill following McConnell's move still remains unclear, but Democratic strategists say he is pushing back the vote. He, and many Republicans, have said they disagree with Trump on whether holding the $2,000 check vote will hurt or help Georgia senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue before the January 5 runoffs.

Newsweek reached out to McConnell's office for additional remarks Tuesday afternoon but did not hear back by time of publishing.

mitch mcconnell economic stimulus bill
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell intimated Monday that the U.S. Senate would vote to pass a COVID-19 economic stimulus bill. Caroline Brehman-Pool/Getty