WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday blocked Democrats’ push to immediately bring President Donald Trump’s demand for bigger $2,000 COVID-19 relief checks up for a vote, saying the chamber would “begin a process” to address the issue.
Pressure is mounting on the Republican-led Senate to follow the House, which voted overwhelmingly on Monday to meet the president’s demand to increase the checks from $600 as the virus crisis worsens. A growing number of Republicans, including two senators in runoff elections on Jan. 5 in Georgia, have said they will support the larger amount. But most GOP senators oppose more spending, even if they are also wary of bucking Trump.
“There’s one question left today: Do Senate Republicans join with the rest of America in supporting $2,000 checks?” Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said as he made a motion to vote.
McConnell, who has said little publicly on Trump’s request, objected but gave almost no indication of his plans ahead.
“The Senate will begin a process,” the GOP leader said. He said he plans to bring the president’s demand for the $2,000 checks and other remaining issues “into focus.”
The showdown has thrown Congress into a chaotic year-end session just days before new lawmakers are set to be sworn into office for the new year. It’s preventing action on another priority — overturning Trump’s veto on a sweeping defense bill that has been approved every year for 60 years.
The debate over the size and scope of the package — $900 billion in COVID-19 aid and $1.4 trillion to fund government agencies — is potentially one last confrontation between the president and the Republican Party. The new Congress is set to be sworn in Sunday.
For now, the $600 checks are set to be delivered, along with other aid, among the largest rescue packages of its kind.