Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell, who blocked $2,000 stimulus checks
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., speaks during a news conference with other Senate Republicans on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020. (Nicholas Kamm/Pool via AP)

In a move that could cost Republicans the Senate runoff races in Georgia and ultimately control of the Senate, McConnell blocked a House bill that would deliver $2,000 stimulus checks to most Americans.

On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) blocked a House bill that would increase COVID-19 relief stimulus checks from $600 to $2,000. Despite bipartisan support for the measure to provide more immediate relief to Americans, McConnell blocked a request by Schumer to approve the increase.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) attempted to pass the stimulus check increase through a unanimous consent on the Senate floor, but McConnell objected. Instead, McConnell said the Senate would consider President Trump’s priorities: calling for bigger checks, restrictions on tech companies, and a voter fraud inquiry into the presidential election.

“Those are the three important subjects the president has linked together,” he said. “This week, the Senate will begin a process to bring these three priorities into focus.”

The Democrat-led House passed the $3 trillion HEROES Act in May that, among other provisions, called for a second round of $1,200 checks. McConnell opposed and declined to bring that bill to a Senate vote. He spearheaded Republican efforts to limit spending in any COVID-19 relief package to $1 trillion for months.

The lawmakers came to a hard-fought compromise with a stimulus bill that included $600 individual payments. Trump then dropped a last-minute surprise on his party by sitting on the legislation for a week, issuing last-minute demands to increase checks to $2,000. He eventually signed Sunday night to prevent a government shutdown—after the deadline to provide full unemployment benefits for 14 million Americans. The Labor Department has said it would not allow benefits to lapse despite the delay, The Hill reported.

Democrats took up the president’s challenge, pushing through the CASH ACT vote Monday, which would provide $2,000 stimulus checks. It made for unusual alliances. 

Among the bill’s supporters are Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, who are embroiled in tough runoff elections in Georgia. Those Senate races on Jan. 5 will determine whether Democrats or Republicans control the Senate, albeit by a razor-thin majority. As of Tuesday, FiveThirtyEight polls find Loeffler neck-and-neck with Democratic challenger Rev. Raphael Warnock, at 47.8% to his 47.9%. Perdue is also locked at 48.1% to Democrat Jon Ossoff’s 47.3%.

“Absolutely, we need to get relief to Americans now, and I will support that,” Loeffler said on Fox & Friends on Tuesday. “I’ve stood by the President 100% of the time. I’m proud to do that.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders vowed to push it to the Senate floor with a threat to filibuster an override vote of Trump’s defense bill veto unless McConnell allowed the vote.

“Let me be clear: If Senator McConnell doesn’t agree to an up or down vote to provide the working people of our country a $2,000 direct payment, Congress will not be going home for New Year’s Eve,” Sanders said in a statement reported by the Washington Post. “Let’s do our job.”

The action comes at a time of desperate need for many Americans.

The Treasury Department is rushing to offset the delay with plans to begin sending the $600 stimulus checks by the end of the week. An official at the Treasury Department told CNBC that if legislation passes to increase direct payments to Americans to $2,000, the difference will be “topped up” at a later time.