Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat from New York, attempted to pass the change to the omnibus spending bill through a unanimous consent request on the Senate floor, but any senator can halt passage of legislation that way. McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, objected to the request.
While the move doesn’t guarantee McConnell will bring the bill up for a vote, it provides a substantive option should time — and the political winds — press the chamber in that direction. It’s also one that would be all but certain to fail to garner the votes for passage.
By tying all of Trump’s demands together, particularly with policies Democrats are almost sure to oppose, McConnell gives himself an option that, should he bring it to the floor, would give Republicans something to vote for with little risk it could become law.
“If we start adding poison pills to the $2,000 payment bill, that is just another way of telling the American people that this body doesn’t support $2,000 payments,” Sen. Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat, said of the additional provisions.
Earlier Tuesday, Schumer urged the Senate to join Trump and the House to increase the size of the checks, arguing that “working Americans have taken it on the chin” during the pandemic.
“The fastest way to get money into Americans pockets, is to send some of their tax dollars right back from where they came,” he said.
Schumer said $600 is “not enough” for Americans who need the extra money to pay for groceries and rent, and dismissed concerns that the proposal would add too much money to the deficit. He said that Republicans had previously passed nearly $2 trillion in tax cuts and recently fought to include a tax break for corporate meal expenses.
“I don’t want to hear that we can’t afford it,” Schumer said.
If the bill does get a full vote in the Senate, it would need at least 12 Republican senators to join all members of the Democratic caucus in order to cross the 60-vote threshold to advance.
“Those are the three important subjects the President has linked together,” said McConnell. “This week, the Senate will begin a process to bring these three priorities into focus.”
Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders who said he would move to delay a vote unless McConnell brings $2,000 stimulus checks to a vote on the floor, continues to push for larger checks.
“The leaders of our country, President Trump, President-elect Biden, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, the Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi are all in agreement,” Sanders said in floor remarks. “We have got to raise the direct payment to $2,000. So, that is where we are right now in this historic moment. Do we turn our backs on struggling working families or do we respond to their pain?”
Before any action on stimulus payments, the Senate must process the override of Trump’s veto. McConnell initially attempted to set that vote for Wednesday, but Sanders objected and made clear he would draw the process out unless the Senate held an up-or-down vote on the House-passed stimulus check measure. Sanders, however, can’t stop the NDAA override vote — only draw it out. And the longer that process takes, the more likely it becomes that no action is taken at all on the direct payments issue before the end of the 116th Congress on Sunday
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin tweeted Tuesday evening that direct payments to Americans may begin to be deposited as early as later in the night. These would be the $600 payments included in the relief package Trump signed on Sunday evening.
This story has been updated with additional developments Tuesday.
CNN’s Phil Mattingly and Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.