Lindsey Graham pushes McConnell for separate vote on $2,000 checks

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Sen. Lindsey Graham on Thursday urged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to allow a stand-alone vote on $2,000 stimulus checks after the new Congress is sworn in next week.

The remarks from the South Carolina Republican break with the public posture of his party’s top Washington lawmaker and come just a day after McConnell rejected the proposed payment boost pushed by Democrats and President Donald Trump.

In a Thursday morning interview on “Fox & Friends,” Graham assessed that “if you had a stand-alone vote on the $2,000 check, it might pass” the Senate. And although “70 percent of Republicans don’t want to go to 2,000 [dollars],” he said, “I’m with the president on this.”

Trump threw near-finalized coronavirus relief negotiations into a state of confusion last week when he ordered Congress to increase the amount of direct payments to individual Americans to $2,000 from $600.

The president also called on lawmakers to establish an election fraud commission and repeal legal protections for social media companies — known as Section 230 — but he ultimately signed the stimulus package over the weekend without securing any of his demands.

The House voted overwhelmingly on Monday to approve $2,000 stimulus checks. McConnell, however, refused a stand-alone vote on the direct payments, instead tying them to Trump’s other two requests — which were viewed as poison pills by Democrats.

On Wednesday, after Trump again insisted upon “$2000 ASAP!” in a tweet, McConnell said the proposal had “no realistic path to quickly pass the Senate” and refused to split the White House’s legislative wish list into separate measures. But that was exactly what Graham pressed the Republican leader to do on Thursday.

“Here’s what I’d like: I’d like a stand-alone vote in the new Congress on the $2,000 check,” Graham said. “We have seven Republicans who’ve already said they would vote for it. We need five more. I think if we had the vote, we would get there.”

The president, Graham added, “wants three things: a commission to investigate fraud, $2,000 checks, and to repeal Section 230. I’m urging Senator McConnell to give a stand-alone vote in the new Congress after January 3rd on all three measures.”

Graham is likely to get little support for the proposal even after the new Congress convenes on Monday. Later Thursday morning, Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin — another top Republican ally of the president — renounced the prospect of $2,000 payments, citing concerns about the national debt and the need for more targeted relief.

“I know it sounds good, it feels good to give away money. Everybody loves benefits,” Johnson told CNBC. “[But] somebody has got to be thinking about … the effect of this on our future generations.”

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