Watch McConnell when he opens the Senate. In particular, the majority leader has made no public commitments on how to handle $ 2,000 checks, despite Trump insisting that he had received a promise that the trial would begin in the U.S. Senate. McConnell’s floor comments on Tuesday could make it clear which direction Senate Republicans are headed.
Bottom line: If McConnell announces plans to put the bill for a formal vote, given procedural hurdles, it may be a few days before that vote takes place.
Meanwhile, Senate Minority Chairman Chuck Schumer will seek unanimous approval Tuesday to pass the move to increase the direct payment to $ 2,000. This is unlikely to happen as any Senator could object (Wisconsin Republican Senator Ron Johnson objected to spending more money on stimulus checks a few days ago).
McConnell knows that adding $ 2,000 worth of checks to that bill would cost hundreds of billions more. It would take McConnell 12 Republicans to sign up, and it’s not clear right now that there are many. Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican from Florida, has said he would support the payments. And Senator Josh Hawley, a Republican from Missouri, was a strong proponent of stimulus checks. A vote on the matter would undoubtedly split the Republican conference, forcing Georgia Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue to come up with a tough vote just days before their runoff election. It would also expose members who vote no to the wrath of a president who never took it well to be crucified.
That’s not to say McConnell isn’t going in that direction. A vote on $ 2,000 checks could also strengthen Perdue and Loeffler in their races if they voted for it. The provision is popular. And even if the move was unsuccessful, hanging up on the floor would show the President that McConnell tried, but the votes just weren’t there. As usual, McConnell sought input from its members.
It’s also possible, and some Democratic advisors CNN has spoken to fear that McConnell could tie a vote on $ 2,000 checks to a less popular provision, making it harder for Democrats to vote for. Recall that Trump has argued that he received assurances that the Senate would also tackle a repeal of Section 230, which protects web businesses from liability for what third-party users post on their websites. That would mess up the party lines and make it much harder for Democrats to vote on $ 2,000 checks.
McConnell had hoped to raise the NDAA override vote on Wednesday. But Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders has said he will block the move unless McConnell produces $ 2,000 checks.
Again, we don’t yet know what McConnell’s plans for checks are, but if he doesn’t promise to bring them to the ground, Sanders could force McConnell to run the clock on the NDAA veto override vote until New Years Day. Sources expect the votes will be there to overturn the NDAA in the Senate. It’s just a matter of when. A delay could keep Loeffler and Perdue from campaigning just a few days before their runoff elections.