Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Thursday that Democrats would allow for votes limiting a liability shield for tech companies and establishing a commission to examine the 2020 election if the GOP agreed to hold a separate up-or-down vote on sending $2,000 checks to most Americans.
“Just give us a vote on the House-passed bill, and we can vote on whatever right-wing conspiracy theory you like,” the New York Democrat said on the Senate floor.
The remarks came shortly after a speech from Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who slammed the $2,000 direct payments as “socialism for the rich.”
McConnell has refused to hold a separate vote on the stimulus payments, instead tying them legislation that would repeal Section 230 and create a commission to study alleged issues with the presidential election.
President Donald Trump demanded that Congress move forward with all three issues when he agreed to sign a $900 billion Covid-19 relief package on Sunday.
Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which shields internet platforms from liability for user-created content, has long been criticized by conservatives who have sparred with companies like Facebook and Twitter over unrelated issues.
Schumer said that by tying the three issues together, McConnell had “invented an excuse” to avoid passing legislation authorizing the increased stimulus payments. Trump, Schumer said, had “made no such demand.”
“Let’s be very clear: There is one way, and only one way, to pass $2,000 checks before the end of the year. And that’s to pass the House bill. It’s the only way to get the American people the checks they need and deserve,” Schumer said.
The Democratic-led House of Representatives passed legislation on Monday authorizing the $2,000 checks, increasing by $1,400 the $600 checks that were called for in the $900 billion package Trump signed. Americans have already started receiving the $600 payments.
On Tuesday, McConnell blocked Schumer’s first attempt to pass the House legislation in the Senate via unanimous consent. Schumer again attempted to do so on Thursday, and McConnell again scuttled the effort.
In his own speech on Thursday, McConnell said that the recession inflicted by the Covid-19 pandemic had affected rich and poor Americans differently.
“The data show that many upper middle class Americans have kept their jobs, worked remotely, and remained totally financially comfortable,” McConnell said. “We do not need to let the speaker of the House do socialism for rich people.”
Those on the left have argued that the direct payments can provide financial lifelines more quickly than more narrowly targeted relief, particularly given delays associated with state-administered unemployment insurance programs.
The push for the increased payments has divided Republicans, including by positioning the outgoing president against the top Republican in Congress. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., also made waves by coming out in support of the $2,000 direct payments.
The fighting has spilled into the crucial runoffs taking place in Georgia, which will determine which party controls the Senate.
The two Democratic candidates, Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, immediately seized on the development, and both of their GOP rivals — Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue — ultimately expressed support for the payment.
President-elect Joe Biden has also voiced support for the $2,000 direct payments, and has said he will provide more details on his plan for more relief legislation early next year. He will be inaugurated on Jan. 20.
Subscribe to CNBC Pro for the TV livestream, deep insights and analysis on how to invest during the next presidential term.