McConnell Puts $2,000 Checks In New Measure Democrats Oppose Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the $2,000 relief checks have "no realistic path" in the Senate on their own. He has tied them to other provisions that Democrats blast as partisan.
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Senate GOP Rushes To Finish Defense Bill And Avoid Showdown On Relief Payments

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Senate GOP Rushes To Finish Defense Bill And Avoid Showdown On Relief Payments

Senate GOP Rushes To Finish Defense Bill And Avoid Showdown On Relief Payments

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

An elaborate pantomime over COVID relief has apparently come to an end. Congress is not likely to increase the aid to individuals. To review here, Congress did pass a relief bill with a $600 check for each American. At the last minute, President Trump demanded $2,000, which he'd never pushed for previously and which his party didn't want. House Democrats approved, daring Senate Republicans to kill it. And now Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has effectively done that. He said he will not allow a standalone vote on the extra money because he says a check to everyone is not what people need.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MITCH MCCONNELL: What they will need is smart, targeted aid, not another fire hose of borrowed money that encompasses other people who are doing just fine.

INSKEEP: NPR congressional correspondent Kelsey Snell has been covering this. Kelsey, good morning.

KELSEY SNELL, BYLINE: Good morning.

INSKEEP: So what does this mean? What does this mean exactly for the average person?

SNELL: Basically, it means that the $2,000 in direct aid that people have been watching Congress discuss over this past week is basically dead. You know, McConnell described it as having no realistic path for quick approval. And quick approval is what they would absolutely need if this were to happen because this Congress ends on Sunday. And, you know, a bill dies at the end of a Congress. You know, many people will still get those smaller checks that you talked about. That's $600 per adult and $600 for each dependent for those who qualify. You know, the larger checks were, in the end, a demand from President Trump that Republicans decided to reject, which is not something that we saw very often in this Congress.

You know, Senator Bernie Sanders pointed out that 10 out of the 25 poorest counties in the U.S. are located McConnell's state of Kentucky. Here's what he said.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BERNIE SANDERS: So maybe my colleague, the majority leader, might want to get on the phone and start talking to working families in Kentucky and find out how they feel about the need for immediate help in terms of a $2,000 check for adults.

SNELL: You know, Bernie Sanders was making the point that Democrats have been asking for bigger payments all along and that the reason that this all got revived was because President Trump came to their side and abandoned Republicans on this issue. Now, McConnell successfully killed the plan, though, because it was a politically difficult, you know, moment for his Republicans, many of whom really just object to the concept of doing these additional checks.

INSKEEP: We should be clear, though, there are some people in this country who don't need the $2,000, who have done fine during the pandemic, who still have their jobs, who may even be saving more money than they were in the past. So let's look at the substantive argument there. Is there a case for what Mitch McConnell said in that recording that we heard just a moment ago that you don't need to distribute money to everybody, you need to target where it goes?

SNELL: You know, a lot of economists and analysts - not just conservatives by any means - say that passing a more robust unemployment package, something that would give people a little bit more money for a longer period of time or extend unemployment for a longer period, and other programs would be better ways to help people who are struggling the most and that these blanket checks are not well-tailored and not well-targeted and don't have what is called the multiplying effect, which is getting more out of the federal dollar than, you know, than these other programs might.

INSKEEP: OK, in any case, that will be left, perhaps to a new Congress. We'll see.

I want to ask in just a few seconds that we have about Republican Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri. He says he's going to object to Congress when Congress certifies the Electoral College vote on January 6. He's going to pass on President Trump's false claims about the election. How's that affect the process?

SNELL: His objection slows down the process, but ultimately, it doesn't change the result, which is that President-elect Joe Biden received 306 electoral votes and Trump received 232. You know, the rules allow for a member of a House and Senate to object, and that's already - we've had an objection already in the House. And, you know, Hawley - there is no evidence of widespread election fraud, and Attorney General Barr has confirmed that fact. But Hawley says that he needs to speak up for the people who felt they were wronged.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JOSH HAWLEY: January 6 is the only opportunity that I've got to speak up for my constituents in this process. This is it.

SNELL: So there will be a delay of about two hours from a - for additional debate, but there will still be a vote to certify the election.

INSKEEP: Kelsey, thanks for your work all year.

SNELL: Thanks for having me.

INSKEEP: NPR's Kelsey Snell.

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