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‘No Realistic Path’ for Quick Vote on $2,000 Stimulus Checks, McConnell Says


WASHINGTON — Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, effectively killed off any chance that Congress would increase stimulus checks to $2,000 before President Trump leaves office, saying there was “no realistic path” for the Senate to pass such a bill on its own.

Mr. McConnell insisted on Wednesday that lawmakers would consider only a bill that wrapped the $2,000 checks in with two other issues that Mr. Trump has demanded Congress address: investigating the integrity of the 2020 election and revoking legal protections for social media platforms. Both of those are nonstarters for Democrats, dooming any chance that such a bill could pass.

In his opening remarks, Mr. McConnell defiantly blamed Democrats for trying to hustle more money out the door. “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,” he said.

That seemed to ignore the fact that Mr. Trump has been the one demanding lawmakers increase stimulus checks to $2,000 from $600 and criticizing his own party for not moving quickly to provide more money.

“Unless Republicans have a death wish, and it is also the right thing to do, they must approve the $2000 payments ASAP. $600 IS NOT ENOUGH!” the president wrote on Twitter on Tuesday.

With four days left in the legislative session, the hard-line stance effectively guarantees that Mr. Trump will not get any of his last-minute demands, despite growing calls from Republican lawmakers to put more money into Americans’ hands.

For days, Mr. Trump held a bipartisan, $900 billion stimulus bill hostage, saying it did not provide big enough checks and refusing to sign it. He finally relented on Sunday and said he had secured a commitment from lawmakers to increase the payments and address two other issues that have drawn his ire: his loss in the 2020 election and legal protections for big technology companies like Facebook and Twitter that are provided by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

“The Senate will start the process for a vote that increases checks to $2,000, repeals Section 230 and starts an investigation into voter fraud,” Mr. Trump said in a statement on Sunday, repeating his unfounded claim of fraud in the 2020 election.

Mr. McConnell insisted that the president wanted those demands considered simultaneously and accused Democrats of “trying to pull a fast one on the president.”

“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,” Mr. McConnell said.

“They’re hoping everyone just forgets about election integrity and big tech,” he said. “They’re desperate to ignore those two parts of President Trump’s request.”

Mr. Trump, however, continued to push for quick action on increasing checks.

“$2000 ASAP!” he wrote on Twitter on Wednesday.

While millions of Americans remain out of work, many economists say that increasing the checks to $2,000 from $600 would most likely have a negligible impact on stimulating the economy since a significant chunk of those receiving payments are likely to save, not spend, the funds. The stimulus payments are based on income levels, not job status. Democrats had pushed for an extra $600 per week in jobless benefits, since that money would go directly to those out of work, but Republicans rejected that request, saying it would discourage people from seeking employment.

On Monday, the House approved a bill increasing the checks to $2,000, and Democrats in the Senate have been urging Mr. McConnell to allow a similar vote. After Mr. McConnell concluded his remarks on Wednesday, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the minority leader, again tried to hold an immediate vote on the House bill, arguing that with just days left in the legislative session and the House out of session, “there is no other game in town.”

“At the very least, the Senate deserves the opportunity for an up-or-down vote,” Mr. Schumer said, calling Mr. Trump “our unlikely ally.” Mr. McConnell again blocked his request, as he did on Tuesday.

Mr. Schumer and other Democrats warned that they would not support any effort to combine Mr. Trump’s three demands into one piece of legislation.

The bill that Mr. McConnell assembled would create a bipartisan commission to study election practices that “strengthened” and that “undermined the integrity of the election,” like the use of mail-in ballots and vote-by-mail procedures, which Mr. Trump has baselessly complained encouraged voter fraud. It would also repeal Section 230, a legal shield that prevents social media companies from being sued for much of the content users post to their platforms.

Mr. Trump has attacked Section 230 for months, arguing without evidence that the law enables websites to censor conservative views.

Mr. McConnell’s decision to prevent a vote on bigger checks is likely to inflame the issue in a pair of tight runoff races in Georgia, which will determine control of the Senate.

Both Republicans trying to retain their seats — Senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue — endorsed the bigger checks on Tuesday, matching the demands of their Democratic challengers, who have called the $600 paltry, and framing the decision as an effort to support the president. Within minutes of Mr. McConnell’s remarks, Senate Democrats’ campaign arm attacked Ms. Loeffler and Mr. Perdue and called their endorsements of the bill “empty gestures.”

Other Republicans — including Marco Rubio of Florida and Josh Hawley of Missouri — have rallied around bigger checks, bucking their party’s concerns about adding to the federal budget deficit.

“I am concerned about the debt, but working families have been hurt badly by the pandemic,” Mr. Rubio said in a tweet. “This is why I supported $600 direct payments to working families & if given the chance will vote to increase the amount.”

Still, the vast majority of Republicans have shown little interest in delivering larger stimulus checks despite Mr. Trump’s request, arguing that any further direct payments should be narrowly aimed at those who need the money most.

“I thought the combination of help that we gave to the American people, which was much more than just a direct payment of $600, was about right. It was targeted,” Senator Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee, told reporters on Wednesday. “If we’re going to spend money, that much money, our preference will be to target it.”

Democrats “want to spend the money on people who frankly haven’t suffered any financial losses during the pandemic, and that’s just wasteful,” said Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas.

Mr. Cornyn said he believed it was unlikely that the issue of larger checks would advance further, and shrugged off a question about whether Republicans were worried about the political blowback of denying Mr. Trump his demand.

“After we spent $4 trillion?” Mr. Cornyn responded, referring to the previous stimulus packages Congress has passed. “No, not in any normal world.”

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