They say politics makes for strange bedfellows, and the fight over $2,000 stimulus checks certainly has.
In the red-hot political battle over whether to raise the latest round of direct stimulus checks from $600 to $2,000, President Trump and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders—who are, in normal times, bitter political foes—have effectively joined forces to push hard for the increase.
But they face a formidable obstacle: Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who shot down attempts to approve the measure during a heated debate in the U.S. Senate on Tuesday.
The dispute has made for an unusual political alignment between Trump, left-leaning Democrats, and some Republicans as Washington scrambles to relieve the worst of the economic damage inflicted by the raging COVID-19 pandemic. And it’s put Trump on a collision course with McConnell, straining a relationship that has loomed over American politics throughout his presidency.
Trump held up a $900 billion stimulus measure for five days last week while demanding Congress agree to boost the checks to $2,000, an amount that Sanders has repeatedly championed. The House approved a measure to do precisely that on Monday, leaving the Senate as the only institutional stumbling block to bigger payments.
But McConnell, in typical fashion, is playing his cards close to the vest. On Tuesday, he spoke in cryptic and evasive language about his position, leaving the door open to the possibility that the Senate would find a way to move forward with higher payments later this week.
McConnell connected the issue of the larger checks with two of Trump’s other favorite talking points: repealing protections for social media companies, and baseless allegations of voter fraud. McConnell suggested these three issues could be woven together into some kind of legislative action in the Senate this week, but he gave no details.