Senate leader McConnell rules out passing House bill on $2,000 relief payments

Republican senator says there's 'no realistic path' to pass bill for Covid-19 stimulus cheques

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US Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell ruled out any chance that the Senate would pass a House bill approving $2,000 stimulus payments to most Americans.

On Wednesday, the Kentucky Republican said the House legislation, approved in a bipartisan vote Monday, "has no realistic path" to a quick passage in the Senate and that it fell short of the demands of President Donald Trump.

Mr McConnell blocked an attempt by Democratic leader Senator Chuck Schumer to adopt the bill by unanimous consent, increasing the payments to $2,000 from $600.

The Senate instead will work on combining the stimulus payments with measures on election integrity and stripping social media companies of liability protection against user content, he said.

This responds to all three issues Mr Trump said he wanted to focus on, but a bill combining them would probably alienate enough senators in both parties to kill prospects for bigger stimulus payments.

“The Senate is not going to be bullied into rushing out more borrowed money into the hands of the Democrats’ rich friends who don’t need the help,” Mr McConnell said.

The House bill would raise the income cut-off to receive a payment.

The clash over the payments has become entangled in another piece of year-end business in the Senate – a vote to override Mr Trump’s veto of a crucial $740.5 billion defence policy bill.

Democratic senators Bernie Sanders and Ed Markey said they would continue to delay the defence legislation vote unless Mr McConnell relented and allowed a vote on a standalone bill on the bigger stimulus cheques.

“We are saying to Mitch McConnell to allow the United States Senate to do what it’s supposed to do, and that is the vote,” Mr Sanders said.

“The House passed the bill, it’s over here right now. Do you want to vote against it? Then vote against it.”

Pat Toomey, a Republican senator from Pennsylvania, later blocked an attempt by Mr Sanders to submit the House bill to a roll-call vote.