WASHINGTON • United States Senate leader Mitch McConnell has dealt a likely death blow 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 cheques to US$2,000 (S$2,600) from US$600.
Mr McConnell said on the Senate floor on Wednesday that a Bill passed by the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives, which sought to meet fellow Republican Trump’s demands for bigger cheques, “has no realistic path to quickly pass the Senate”.
Mr McConnell, who controls the Senate’s agenda and opposes the increase in aid, had introduced a competing Bill combining the US$2,000 cheques 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 US$600 cheques Congress has already approved.
Appearing to shrug off Mr Trump’s own initiative, Mr 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 Mr McConnell complained the cheques were not targeted at those in 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.
Mr Trump had ramped up pressure on fellow Republicans to back the bigger cheques for struggling Americans in a series of tweets over recent days. “$2000 ASAP!” Mr 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.
Some Republican senators had supported an increase in the payments. They include Mr David Perdue and Ms Kelly Loeffler, who face run-off elections in Georgia next week that will determine which party controls the Senate under President-elect Joe Biden’s incoming administration.