President Donald Trump join Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer and Bernie Sanders
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has a solution to anger both Democrats and Trump. It's an elegant form of political chess and a cynical form of governance that will both maintain the status quo of $600 relief checks and dispatch Trump's other demands, leaving the President with nothing to show for his recent tweets.
The standoff over coronavirus relief checks entered a new phase when a bill that passed through the House with mostly Democratic support landed in the GOP-controlled Senate. Most House Republicans opposed it and others, like Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, perhaps unwilling to choose between their mercurial leader and the concerns about profligate spending they'll be dusting off as soon as he leaves office, skipped the House vote altogether.
"Unless Republicans have a death wish, and it is also the right thing to do, they must approve the $2,000 payments ASAP. $600 IS NOT ENOUGH!" Trump said on Twitter shortly after McConnell blocked consideration of the more generous House proposal Democrats sent him.
McConnell is primed to tie the $2,000 relief check proposal, which could pass, with Trump's unrelated demand to strip tech companies of some liability protection -- a forced marriage of policies that have nothing to do with each other besides Trump's interest that could ensure both measures die in the Senate.
That Trump's now concerned with doing "the right thing" on the Covid relief checks after months of downplaying the pandemic has certainly changed political momentum.
Republican Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, running for their political lives before twin January 5 runoff elections in Georgia, have both now endorsed the idea of larger checks, matching their Democratic challengers.
Trump plans to visit Georgia and campaign for Loeffler and Perdue. And Loeffler, at least, said she'll vote any way Trump wants.
"I've stood by the President 100% of the time, I'm proud to do that and I've said absolutely, we need to get relief to Americans now, and I will support that," she told reporters during a campaign stop Tuesday.
The contours of those races mean everything to McConnell, who very much wants to stay majority leader, but to do so needs Republicans to win at least one race to retain a 51-seat majority in the chamber.
McConnell's also got to contend with the larger number of Republicans in the Senate who will oppose them.
Sen. Pat Toomey, the budget-conscious Pennsylvania Republican, told CNN's Jake Tapper Tuesday that larger checks would add to the national debt and send help to Americans who don't need it. The country's economic problems, he argued, demand more focused relief.
"We've got very acute problems within certain employment groups, right? People who work for restaurants and hotels and travel and entertainment -- devastated," he said. "But we do not have a global macroeconomic depression underway at all. So it makes no sense to be sending this out to everybody who has a pulse."
"Senate Republicans added nearly 2 trillion to deficits to give corporations a massive tax cut," Schumer, the Senate minority leader, said Tuesday. "So I don't want to hear it that it costs too much to help working families getting a check when they're struggling to keep their jobs and pay their family families and live a normal life."