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McConnell stymies COVID relief bill

McConnell stymies COVID relief bill
Senate leader Mitch McConnell (foreground) walks to the Senate floor, December 30, 2020. (Reuters)

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WASHINGTON – United States Senate leader Mitch McConnell dealt a likely death blow on Wednesday to President Donald Trump’s bid to boost coronavirus aid to Americans, declining to schedule a swift Senate vote on a bill to raise relief checks to $2 000 from $600.

McConnell said on the Senate floor that a bill passed by the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives, which sought to meet fellow Republican Trump’s demands for bigger checks, “has no realistic path to quickly pass the Senate”.

McConnell, who controls the Senate’s agenda and opposes the increase in aid, had introduced a competing bill combining the $2 000 checks with provisions unacceptable to Democrats, who could block it.

With a new Congress set to be sworn in on Sunday, the action appears all but certain to kill the effort to increase the amount of the $600 checks Congress has already approved.

Appearing to shrug off Trump’s own initiative, McConnell continued: “The Senate is not going to be bullied into rushing out more borrowed money into the hands of Democrats’ rich friends who don’t need the help.”

Democrats have insisted the aid is for people in dire need of help in the face of a health crisis that has killed nearly 340 000 people in the United States, but McConnell complained the checks were not targeted to need.

“Let folks vote. Mitch McConnell has the ability to do that … He simply is unwilling to do that and the American people are going to be hurt,” Democratic Senator Gary Peters told CNN.

Trump had ramped up pressure on fellow Republicans to back the bigger checks for struggling Americans in a series of tweets over recent days. “$2000 ASAP!” Trump wrote on Twitter early on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, the president attacked Republican leaders as “pathetic” and accused the party of having a “death wish” if it did not back raising the stimulus payments or scrap legal protections for social media companies. (Reuters)