U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday put off a vote on President Donald Trump’s call to boost COVID-19 relief checks and urged the Senate to override his veto of a defense bill, in a rare challenge to his fellow Republican three weeks before Trump leaves office, Reuters reported.
McConnell acted shortly after Trump assailed Republican leaders on Twitter, calling them “weak” and “tired” in an apparent effort to get the Senate to increase COVID-19 checks from $600 to $2,000 and to support his defense bill veto.
After McConnell addressed the start of a rare year-end Senate session, Trump tweeted that the Senate must approve the higher payments as soon as possible, “unless Republicans have a death wish.”
McConnell, the top Republican in the Senate, blocked immediate consideration of a measure to increase COVID-19 relief payments, suggesting instead that the Senate would begin to examine the issue along with two others Trump has raised – the integrity of elections and limits on big technology companies.
“This week the Senate will begin a process to bring these three priorities into focus,” he said. McConnell did not elaborate on what action, if any, the Senate would take on stimulus checks.
A combined $892 billion bipartisan coronavirus relief package and $1.4 trillion spending bill that Trump signed into law on Sunday contains $600 checks for people hit hard financially by the coronavirus.
Democrats believe the stimulus check issue could give them an advantage in two critical Georgia runoff elections next week that will determine which party controls the U.S. Senate and the fate of President-elect Joe Biden’s agenda when he takes office on Jan. 20.
“For the brave men and women of the United States armed forces, failure is simply not an option,” he said. “So when it’s our turn in Congress to have their backs, failure is not an option either. I would urge my colleagues to support this legislation one more time, when we vote tomorrow.”
With the New Year’s Day holiday on Friday and a new Congress due to be sworn into office on Sunday, lawmakers have only a short time to act.
Republicans in Congress have largely stuck with Trump through four turbulent years during which he was impeached, became the focus of an inquiry into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and oversaw the federal response to the coronavirus pandemic which has killed 333,000 people in the United States.