One month after Republicans, led by now-Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, refused to concede to higher payments to individuals in the December stimulus package, a move some believe may have changed the outcome of the Senate runoff elections in Georgia from red to blue, the GOP attempted to sacrifice some of its tightly-held convictions about relief checks to talk with President Joe Biden about his $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief proposal.
Republican lawmakers are now countering Democrats’ $1,400 relief check plans with $1,000. This move by the GOP follows party infighting in which Republican leaders such as McConnell blocked efforts to send $2,000 relief checks to struggling Americans, instead sending $600, a move that likely contributed to GOP defeats in Georgia and thus costing the party its slim majority in the Senate. This means all the Republicans’ pandemic political games that cost them dearly ultimately would have resulted in a difference of a mere $400 in relief per direct payment to Americans — that is, if the GOP had been successful this week in meeting with the new administration.
Originally, the White House agreed to meet with 10 Republicans this week to discuss the smaller relief proposal that cuts spending by almost two-thirds. Biden, who launched his presidency on a platform of unifying the country and toning down partisanship, however, did not budge in the Monday meeting, a move that press secretary Jen Psaki said shows that “he will not slow down work on this urgent crisis response, and will not settle for a package that fails to meet the moment.” Instead, Biden gave the green light to congressional Democrats who plan to push the trillion-dollar relief bill through both the House and Senate, which they control, and use a legislative procedure in the upper chamber that eliminates the need for a 60-vote threshold.
Suddenly, the GOP members’ scrambled attempts to compromise with Biden and bargain their way toward a more “productive” spending were shattered and looked foolish.
Just a couple of months before their big meeting with Biden, many Republicans refused to consider their peers’ pleas to raise the amount in coronavirus relief checks from $600 to $2,000. Even when former President Donald Trump threatened to refuse to sign the bill and former Georgia Republican Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue both offered their support for increased payments, hoping it would boost their chances in their Jan. 5 runoff election, many GOP members refused to budge.
Instead of allowing a vote on the House’s COVID-19 stimulus bill, which promised higher payments, McConnell blocked the Democrats and then-Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer from unanimously passing the legislation in exchange for the introduction of his newer bill that continued to delay the financial help for Americans by attempting to negotiate the highly unlikely Section 230 reform.
The cries of senators such as Josh Hawley, R-Mo., and Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who were in the vocal coalition calling for higher payments, were ignored by their own party, who chose to focus on overriding Trump’s veto of the National Defense Authorization Act, which the former president said fails to “put America first in our national security and foreign policy actions.”