Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell rejected a bill to increase direct payments to $2,000, likely closing the door on any pathway to passage before the end of the Congress this weekend.
McConnell took to the Senate floor to attack the House-passed bill, specifically on the issue of higher-income individuals and couples that would be eligible to receive some of the payments due to how the income phase outs are structured.
The Kentucky Republican said the House bill had “no realistic path to quickly pass the Senate,” and said the Democratic-led effort ran astray of what President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly pressured Republicans to pass the expanded stimulus checks, actually requested.
“The Senate 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 said.
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, who has pushed for an immediate vote on the measure, slammed McConnell’s position and pressed Republicans to bring the bill up for a vote.
“At the very least, the Senate deserves the opportunity for an up-or-down vote,” Schumer said, adding that “there is no other game in town than the House bill.”
But McConnell also made clear nothing would move forward in the chamber that doesn’t include Trump’s other two priorities: a full repeal of online liability protections and an investigation into alleged voter fraud.
“The Senate is not going to split apart the three issues that President Trump linked together,” McConnell said on the Senate floor.
McConnell, on Tuesday, introduced legislation that combined the three Trump priorities – each a prerequisite for Trump signing the Covid relief and spending package earlier this week. Trump himself has never specified that those three items should be tied together.
But McConnell, in his remarks Wednesday, made clear that the introduction of his legislation met the contours of the agreement with Trump, which stipulated only starting the process to vote on the issues.
As it currently stands, there are no votes scheduled on McConnell’s bill, or the House-passed legislation, and GOP aides say it’s likely the 116th Congress comes to an end without any action on increasing direct payments.
The Kentucky Republican opened up his floor remarks Wednesday blasting Vermont independent Sen. Bernie Sanders for holding up the override vote on Trump’s veto of the National Defense Authorization Act.
“Today the Senate was supposed to finish legislation securing critical tools, training and support for America’s armed forces,” he said. “But the junior senator from Vermont had other ideas.”
McConnell added: “The Senate will stay on this important bill until we complete it, one way or another.”
Sanders has said he will delay the NDAA override vote unless McConnell brings a $2,000 checks to a vote on the floor. A final vote could stretch into Saturday if Sanders continues to hold it up. Eventually, though it will pass. It’s just a matter of how long this takes.
CNN’s Ali Zaslav contributed to this report.