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Senate meets on New Year’s Day to fight over $2,000 stimulus checks

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The Senate convened Friday for a rare New Year’s Day session to fight over $2,000 stimulus checks requested by President Trump.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) says he won’t allow a vote on the pandemic payment unless Democrats agree to repeal legal protections for social media companies and to establish a voter fraud commission.

Time is running out. The next session of Congress begins at noon Sunday, and if the checks aren’t approved by then, a House-passed bill dies and would have to be passed again.

“The House Democrats’ bill is just simply not the right approach,” McConnell said Friday.

Many conservatives oppose increasing just-approved $600 checks to $2,000, saying it would add an estimated $462 billion to the national debt and potentially cause inflation.

Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-SD) said Friday it would be “a shotgun approach where a rifle makes a lot more sense.”

But Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) noted some Republican senators support the new checks.

“For once, we have progressive Democrats, conservative Republicans, the president himself and not to mention of course the majority — the vast majority of the American people singing from the same songbook in support of these checks,” he said.

Schumer said Friday would be the “last chance” to approve the larger stimulus checks.

Republican Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida, Josh Hawley of Missouri, Kelly Loeffler of Georgia, David Perdue of Georgia and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina support the increased check amount.

“If the Senate does not take action today, $2,000 checks will not become law before the end of Congress, and they will know that Leader McConnell and the Republican majority have prevented them from getting the checks, plain and simple,” Schumer said.

The fight over checks has become hitched to a different battle over whether to override Trump’s veto of a $740 billion defense bill. His veto will be sustained if the Senate vote does not occur by noon Sunday.

Mitch McConnell
Mitch McConnell
Getty Images

Senators are expected to vote Friday on whether to proceed with the veto override, which would be the first of Trump’s presidency. Sixty votes are needed to end debate, meaning some Democrats are needed, even without agreement on the $2,000 checks.

Trump said he vetoed the defense bill because it did not repeal Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which shields tech companies that host third-party content, because it seeks to hamstring his drawdown of troops in Afghanistan from 4,500 in November to 2,500 by Jan. 15 and because it would force the renaming of 10 military bases that honor Confederates.

If the larger checks were to be approved, the amount of relief would decrease for people with higher incomes.

For individual tax filers without dependents, the amount decreases — under both the $600 and $2,000 proposals — for people earning more than $75,000 per year. People earning more than $95,000 — and couples without dependents earning more than $190,000 — get nothing under either plan.

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