Mitch McConnell refuses quick vote on $2,000 payments

Mitch McConnell refuses quick vote on $2,000 payments

Mitch McConnell refuses quick vote on $2,000 payments

Mitch McConnell refuses quick vote on $2,000 payments

Mitch McConnell has effectively blocked chances to fast-track passage of legislation that would send $2,000 to most Americans, despite mounting political pressure and a growing public health crisis.

The Senate Majority Leader said his chamber will not be “bullied” into a vote, after a two-thirds majority approval in the House of Representatives on Monday and demands from Donald Trump to increase recently approved pandemic aid from $600 to $2,000.

Senator McConnell, with mere days left on the legislative calendar, refused to bring the House bill to the GOP-dominated Senate floor on Wednesday, dismissing additional relief as a “firehose of borrowed money.”

He said the measure has “no realistic path to quickly pass the Senate” – instead, he has introduced a measure that ties direct payments to the president’s unrelated demands to indulge his election-related grievances, including a repeal of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act and an investigation of voter fraud, despite a lack of widespread evidence after several lawsuits, vote audits and reports from the president’s own campaign and administration that failed to prove its existence.

After he was shot down on Tuesday, New York Senator Chuck Schumer sought another vote on the House measure, saying “there is no other game in town.” Senator McConnell blocked the request a second time.

“At the very least, the Senate deserves the opportunity for an up-or-down vote,” Senator Schumer said.

Senator Bernie Sanders, the leading progressive in the chamber, supported by Democratic Senator Ed Markey, sought to block passage of a congressional override of the president’s veto of a $740bn military spending bill in order to force a vote on direct payments. The senate began the first of several motions to begin the override process, with a final vote likely set for this weekend.

The independent senator from Vermont railed against GOP objections, pointing to Republicans’ ongoing support for the president’s massive tax cuts that have ballooned the deficit they now argue is too fragile to take on the larger payments to struggling Americans.

“Let me just make it clear for the majority leader that 10 out of the poorest 25 counties in the United States of America are located in Kentucky,” Senator Sanders said of Senator McConnell, who represents Kentucky. “So maybe my colleague … might want to get on the phone and start talking to working families in Kentucky.”

Senator Markey said: “Americans are actually tired of being told that $600 is ‘sufficient’ as an amount of money as relief, as billionaires receive their tax breaks and grow their wealth by the trillions of dollars during this crisis.”

In her weekly conference on Wednesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi condemned Senate Republicans for blocking a vote on a measure she ushered through the House on Monday.

“Who is holding up that distribution to the American people? Mitch McConnell and the Senate Republicans,” she said. “They are in denial of the hardship that the American people are experiencing now – healthwise, financially and every way. Their lives and livelihoods in many cases are on the brink.”

Speaker Pelosi said she hoped Senate Republicans will “see the light and understand the suffering that is going on in our country” and support a vote on the House-backed measure.

“It’s amazing to see the patience that some people have with other people suffering,” she said. “These Republicans in the Senate seem to have an endless tolerance for other people’s sadness.”

More than 20 million Americans are relying on some form of unemployment aid in the economic fallout from the public health crisis.

The number of people in poverty has grown by more than eight million since May, according to the Center on Poverty and Social Policy at Columbia University. The centre warned that the population of Americans living in poverty was on track to spike by nearly 5 million in January if Congress and the president failed to extend federal assistance programmes recently signed by the president.

More than 340,000 Americans have died from Covid-19; hospitalisations have reached near-daily record highs, with more than 124,000 people in hospital as of 29 December.

After the president initially refused to sign a $940bn coronavirus relief bill, threatening the expiration of critical federal programmes for unemployed Americans and an eviction moratorium, House Democrats leveraged his demands for a larger stimulus payment, which they have sought for months during the pandemic. He signed the measure, part of a larger government spending bill, on Sunday night.

Americans who earn up to $75,000 qualify for the direct payments of $600 included in the relief package; the payments are phased out for higher income earners.

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