Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has now made it clear he’s not going to allow a clean vote on $2,000 stimulus checks, confirming earlier indications that he wasn’t going to be stampeded into excessive generosity by growing bipartisan sentiment or orders from the White House. Instead, in a gambit designed to repel Democrats and perhaps convince the president not to smite him, McConnell will only contemplate a vote on the bigger checks if it’s bundled with Trump’s demands for “election fraud” investigations and the repeal of legal protections for social-media platforms, according to the Washington Post:
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said that a proposal from Democrats to approve $2,000 stimulus checks has “no realistic path to quickly pass the Senate,” effectively killing one of President Trump’s top priorities in the final days of his presidency.
McConnell said Republicans would not be “bullied” into passing the bill quickly despite intensifying pressure from Democrats and Trump, citing a belief that the proposal would greatly inflate the U.S. debt and benefit some families who are not in need of financial assistance.
In doing so, McConnell pledged he would not sever the one-time checks from a broader package that the leader said he would try to advance — one that includes an effort to study the 2020 presidential election for fraud and terminate legal protections for tech giants. Democrats vehemently oppose both additions, believing they are deliberate poison pills meant to scuttle any hope of a deal.
The social-media-platform issue (widely referred to as the “repeal of Section 230” for the U.S. code provision containing the liability protections Trump wants to eliminate as vengeance for alleged “censorship” of disinformation from him and his allies) is central to McConnell’s true legislative priority as this Congress winds down: a Senate override of Trump’s veto of the 2020 defense bill. Trump cited in his veto the absence of Section 230 repeal in the defense bill and the inclusion of language mandating the removal of Confederate names from military facilities, so McConnell may again be trying to pour water on the presidential volcano just before Trump leaves office.
It’s telling that McConnell made his move to kill the $2,000 checks after allowing Georgia’s embattled Republican senators to endorse Trump’s demands for them, theoretically neutering Democratic attacks on Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue for refusing to come to the aid of needy constituents. At the same time McConnell’s claim that bigger checks would be poorly targeted and would boost deficits and debt represented a big shout-out to the fiscal hawks in his conference who would have preferred no stimulus checks at all. McConnell may figure that Trump is too absorbed with his mad plans for a challenge to Biden’s election on January 6 when the new Congress will certify Electoral College votes to pay much attention to other issues.
Yes, Democrats and even a few Republicans may protest this typically devious maneuver; Bernie Sanders continues to threaten dilatory tactics on the Senate floor on remaining business unless there’s a clean vote on the $2,000 checks. But while Democrats can disrupt holiday plans, in the end McConnell is the master of the Senate, which is perhaps the best argument Democrats can make for toppling his reign when Georgians vote on January 5.