MITCH McConnell blocked a Senate vote on Trump-backed $2,000 stimulus checks for Americans even as a top Republican says the Senate has enough votes to pass such a bill.
Missouri Sen Josh Hawley revealed his party had enough members to join with Democrats to pass the checks just minutes after a pair of Georgia GOP senators publicly gave their support for the measure, which has already passed the House.
Hawley tweeted: 'We've got the votes. Let's vote today."
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, however, signaled Hawley's contingent still faced an uphill battle. Most GOP senators have been unwilling to shell out the money needed for $2,000 checks.
McConnell said Tuesday afternoon he would work to bring 'into focus' the Trump-backed checks among other priorities, and appeared to suggest he might tie any vote on checks to a less popular provision in an effort to stop it from passing.
Earlier, McConnell prevented Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer from trying to pass the $2,000 check stimulus bill by unanimous consent.
Hawley's optimistic tweet came after Georgia Sens David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler both tweeted support for the $2,000 checks late this morning.
Perdue and Loeffler are locked in tight races for their Georgia seats and face voters in a special election set for Jan. 6.
Trump has backed the checks for days and cranked up his support Tuesday, tweeting his approval of Bernie Sander's bid to filibuster the Senate if a vote was not held on the stimulus checks.
Sanders announced his intentions to slow the Senate's vote, potentially until the new year, if leaders do not hold a vote regarding the increase in the coronavirus relief funds given to Americans.
President Trump tweeted this morning: "$2,000 for our great people, not $600! They have suffered enough from the China virus!!!" The call echoed an earlier message that was written above a tweet detailing Sander's plans.
The National Defense Authorization Act has now been sent to the Republican-led Senate, where GOP leaders have previously argued against paying high levels of direct aid to the public.
Senator Sander's told an interviewer on Monday evening: "McConnell and the Senate want to expedite the override vote and I understand that.
"But I'm not going to allow that to happen unless there is a vote, no matter how long that takes, on the $2,000 direct payment."
"The American people are desperate, and the Senate has got to do its job before leaving town," Sanders said.
"It would be unconscionable, especially after the House did the right thing, for the Senate to simply leave Washington without voting on this."
His spokesman also confirmed he will object to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell setting up a vote on the veto override of the bill, until the proposed aid increase is voted on.
The $740billion bill was branded a "disgrace" by President Trump earlier this month, who threatened to use his veto power until Congress produced a suitable package for struggling Americans.
The House of Representatives dealt the President a devastating blow in his final days of presidency, after they voted to override Trump's veto.
After the vote of 322 to 87, Nancy Pelosi slammed the veto as "reckless" and urged the President to "end his eleventh-hour campaign of chaos".
The NDAA was passed in early December with a 84 to 13 majority, with Sanders originally voting against it.
Sanders received further support from Senator Ed Markey, who echoed his plans to slow down the defense bill in a bid to increase the coronavirus stimulus cheques as part of the $2.3 trillion relief package.
He tweeted: "I will be joining @BernieSanders in blocking the defense bill until we get a vote on $2000 in direct cash relief.
"That relief passed in the House today with 44 Republicans voting for it. Senate Republicans must do the same and get the American people the help they need."
On Monday, the House of Representatives passed a measure to increase stimulus checks from $600 to $2,000 per person.
The 275 votes for passage meant the stimulus proposal narrowly exceeded the two-thirds of votes cast needed.
A total of 130 Republicans, two independents and two Democrats opposed the increased checks on Monday.
The House Speaker also called on Republicans to back the president’s call to increase the individual stimulus checks to $2,000 per person.
"We need to ensure robust support for state and local government to distribute and administer a vaccine, keep workers employed and prevent devastating service cuts," Pelosi said, "and we must do so as soon as possible."
President-elect Joe Biden also showed his support for the increased payments.
When asked at the end of an event in Wilmington, Delaware, whether he supported expanding the coronavirus checks to $2,000, he replied: "Yes."
A Treasury official said the department has planned on sending the $600 payments regardless this week as promised.
Should the Senate approve the $2,000 direct payments, the Treasury Department would then add to the already issued funds.
Increasing the checks would cost $464 billion, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation, which prepares cost estimates for legislation before Congress.
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