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Republicans drag out vote for bigger stimulus checks

WASHINGTON (CN) — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused Tuesday to schedule a vote on the House-passed bill that would increase the Covid-19 stimulus checks for Americans from $600 to $2,000. 

The CASH Act — short for Caring for Americans With Supplemental Help — was flung to the body a day after achieving a two-thirds majority in the Democratic-controlled House. Adults making up to $75,000 annually would receive direct payments under the bill introduced on Christmas.

On the same evening, the House sent its super-majority backed bill to override President Donald Trump’s veto of a $740.5 billion spending bill for American defense in 2021, known as the National Defense Authorization Act or NDAA.

McConnell committed Tuesday on the Senate’s backing of the Trump-spurned bill.

“This important legislation will be passed into law,” McConnell said. “President Trump is rightly noted that this year’s defense bill does not contain every provision that we Republicans would have wanted.” 

Scheduling a Wednesday vote for lawmakers to reject the president’s veto,

McConnell said senators had abbreviated their Christmas break for the sole purpose of passing the override but that issues like bringing Americans additional direct funding and bolstering election integrity should be reexamined.

It is expected that the override vote could be delayed until as late as Sunday.

Incidentally, one of the very items that President Trump premised his veto on for the defense bill will now be tied to the delivery of stimulus checks, McConnell suggested. 

After announcing the impending override vote, McConnell remarked on what he perceived is a “growing willingness” among lawmakers to reexamine Section 230 of the Telecommunications Decency Act — a matter wholly unrelated to checks or defense spending but a pet issue for the president. 

The majority leader also suggested he could deliver on another much-coveted project for the one term president: a review of election security, integrity, and the “sanctity of America’s ballots.” 

Shortly thereafter, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said there was no reason senators couldn’t vote up or down to send additional funding to American families. Objecting to McConnell’s scheduling of the NDAA vote, the New York Democrat said the Senate should be in session to address both issues, not just whether or not to send funds to the American defense programs.

“Tens of millions have lost their jobs, tens of millions are struggling to put food on the table, keep a roof over their heads,” Schumer said. “In the wealthiest nation on earth, modern-day bread lines stretch for miles down American highways. The fastest way to get money into Americans’ pockets is to send some of their tax dollars right back from where they came.”

It was Schumer who asked McConnell for modification of the Wednesday vote to override the president’s NDAA veto, requiring unanimous consent for the increase of funds to Americans.

McConnell rejected that request, without further elaboration. 

Senator Bernie Sanders, a Vermont Independent, then objected to McConnell’s scheduling of the NDAA veto override vote. By an overwhelming majority, the House had done the right thing by sending lawmakers a bill to directly impact and aid American families, he said, noting that this has been a year of nearly unprecedented pain in the country.

Sanders emphasized that hunger is at its highest rate in decades, while the wealth inequalities spread for American working-class families, all while a pandemic worsens every day through the country. 

“During the last year, the education and well-being of tens of millions of our young people, from child care to graduate school, has been disrupted,” Sanders said. “And the terrible, emotional isolation that this pandemic has caused, where people are unable to spend time with their family or their friends has resulted in a huge increase in mental illness, drug addiction and even suicide.”

He added: “Do we turn our backs on struggling working families, or do we respond to their pain?”

Sanders then asked McConnell if he would modify his scheduling of the NDAA veto override to include a vote following, to approve the House’s CASH Act. The Kentucky Republican, again, objected.