Washington, Dec 30 (efe-epa).- President Donald Trump’s demand to increase the direct stimulus payments to Americans from $600 to $2,000 has become stuck in the Senate and has little chance of being approved due to the division within the GOP on the matter.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Wednesday closed the door to Trump’s proposal, which had been approved by the Democrats, who have been exerting pressure for months to increase the amount of the direct payments to citizens to alleviate the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic and the fact that millions of people have lost their jobs.
In a speech in the Senate chamber, McConnell announced that the proposal to increase the size of the payments has no “realistic” road to being approved in the upper house, where the Republicans are in the majority.
With a new Congress due to take office on Jan. 3, McConnell suggested that the bill will simply expire, despite the fact that the House of Representatives, where Democrats dominate, approved it.
More than a month ago, the two chambers of Congress approved a stimulus package valued at $900 billion designed to ameliorate the economic damage caused by the pandemic and which included direct payments of $600 to all Americans making less than $75,000 per year.
For five days after that move, Trump refused to sign the stimulus bill, although last Sunday night he backed off of that stance and signed it on the condition that the direct payments be increased to $2,000.
Immediately, Democrats picked up the gauntlet the president had thrown down and on Monday approved that increase in the House, but on Tuesday, McConnell counterattacked and laid out his strategy based on his authority, as leader of the Senate, to decide which initiatives are brought to votes in the chamber.
Specifically, the GOP lawmaker linked the legislative move to increase the payments to another initiative to end the so-called Section 230 that protects Internet giants like Twitter and Facebook from any legal consequences resulting from posts that third parties place on those social networks.
In addition, he included in that package another law to create a commission to study the Nov. 3 elections, in which Joe Biden won the presidency and will take office on Jan. 20, 2021, a victory which Trump has refused to recognize, claiming – without any proof – that massive election fraud denied him reelection.
By linking those initiatives, McConnell set a trap for Democrats and, in practical terms, buried their $2,000 initiative.
McConnell said that the Senate will not be intimidated into delivering more borrowed funds to the “rich friends” of Democrats who need no help, although the measure had been directed at the millions of working Americans who are having trouble making ends meet or paying their mortages or rent after losing their jobs in the pandemic.
In his speech, McConnell made several allusions to the ideas of fiscal discipline and control of public spending that historically have been part of the Republican Party’s platform until Trump’s arrival in the White House, where he promoted significantly higher spending by the federal government.
The Republican Party is facing the challenge of redefining its identity once Trump leaves office on Jan. 20 and some GOP lawmakers are pushing to return to those ideas of fiscal discipline.
In addition, in the negotiations surrounding the direct payments, both Democrats and Republicans have tried to make political points with an eye on the two US Senate runoff races in Georgia on Jan. 5.
On that date, Georgia will hold runoff elections to determine who will hold the state’s two Senate seats, currently in the hands of Republicans but which the Democrats have a decent chance of flipping, and if they were win both races they would wrest control of the Senate from the GOP, something the conservatives are working frantically to avoid.