Senate Republicans blocked another last-ditch Democratic effort to hold a vote on boosting stimulus checks from $600 to $2,000 on New Year’s Day.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell criticized $2,000 direct payments in a Friday floor speech, two days before the 116th Congress ends on Sunday.
“A huge chunk would essentially be socialism for rich people,” the Republican leader said, before dismissing the checks as a “universal cash giveaway.”
Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent, disputed McConnell’s remarks and called out Republicans for being concerned about “socialism for rich people” despite supporting massive tax breaks for companies.
“That is what socialism for the rich is about,” Sanders said of the tax cuts. “Socialism for the rich is not—in the midst of this terrible pandemic—putting a $2,000 check into the hands of working families.”
“I see, if I may say so, a bit of hypocrisy here,” he added.
Sanders and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, spearheaded the latest effort for a vote, which was backed by GOP Senator Josh Hawley and President Donald Trump. “$2000 ASAP!” the president tweeted on Wednesday.
“The Senate can start off this new year by adding to that sense of hope by sending $2,000 checks to struggling American families,” Schumer said on the Senate floor.
With the current Congress ending on Sunday, any bills not passed would need to be reintroduced to the 117th Congress.
“I’ll ask consent for the final time that the Senate set a time for a vote on the House bill to provide $2,000 checks. I’ve done it every day this week,” Schumer added. “This is it—the last chance for the 116th Congress to pass $2,000 checks and to say to regular Americans that help is on the way. Let’s have a vote.”
But Republicans refused to support increasing direct payments. Some stressed that “targeted relief” was needed to address the worsening pandemic.
Hawley reminded his GOP colleagues that Trump backed fattening the checks and urged them to support the measure. “This seems to be the Senate versus the United States of America,” he said.
Senate Majority Whip John Thune blocked the “shot-gun” request, and insisted that: “We ought to sit down and figure out the most efficient, effective, targeted way possible. This absolutely does not do that.”
The House passed $2,000 stimulus checks by a 275-134 vote on Monday night. Two Democrats—Kurt Schrader of Oregon and Daniel Lipinski of Illinois, an outgoing congressman—broke with the party in efforts to triple direct payments under the COVID relief bill passed last week.
Newsweek reached out to Sanders and McConnell’s office for comment.