- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell came to back $600 COVID-19 stimulus checks after hearing that prior opposition was hurting them in Georgia, according to The New York Times.
- Citing a private call, the Times said McConnel described said Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue “getting hammered” on the issue.
- The Georgia runoffs on January 5 will decide the balance of power in the Senate.
- Checks of $1,200 were sent out earlier in the year, but had dropped off the radar in the latest negotiations until coming roaring back this week.
- McConnell’s intervention helped put them back on the agenda, although Democrats are angered that this came at the apparent cost of one month of unemployment benefits.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s decision to support $600 checks in COVID-19 stimulus negotiations was motivated by fears for the Georgia runoff elections, according to The New York Times.
Two sources told the paper McConnell’s U-turn on supporting the checks came after hearing that Republican opposition to more stimulus checks was hurting ongoing campaigns in Georgia.
In a private phone conversation Wednesday, McConnell said that backing another round of direct payments to Americans could help, the Times reported.
The Georgia runoffs, to be held on January 5, will decide the balance of power in the Senate, determining how much of a free hand President-elect Joe Biden can expect when he takes office.
McConnell has been the most stubborn force in the stimulus negotiations, consistently sticking to his slimmed-down proposal of around $500 billion.
Meanwhile, leading Democrats have whittled their initial $2.2 trillion demand down by at least half, accepting a $908 billion bipartisan proposal as a basis for negotiations.
That proposal kicked stimulus checks into the long grass. But on Wednesday, McConnell made a surprise pivot to supporting stimulus checks of around $600-700.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had introduced a White House proposal last week that included $600 checks, but it also made a massive cut to unemployment benefits, turning off Democrats.
As negotiations drag on, progressives such as Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and independent Sen. Bernie Sanders have continued to make the case for $1,200 checks.
Democrats are also unhappy that the $600 checks proposal comes at the apparent cost of shrinking unemployment benefits by a month.
The final shape of what both parties are likely to agree on is starting to emerge, with a price tag of around $900 billion. According to the Associate Press (AP), this could include:
- $300 billion in support for businesses, in another round of PPP
- $600 checks to all, and a further $300 to the long-term unemployed
- Renewal of unemployment benefits
- $25 billion to help renters struggling to make payments
- $10 billion for the US Postal Service
Likely to be left by the wayside is around $160 billion to help state and local governments — a Democratic wish — and pandemic liability protections for businesses that the GOP has pushed for.
Negotiations on the stimulus package are going down to the wire, with a deadline on Friday looming to avert a government shutdown. This could be extended.
Negotiators had hoped to strike a deal after two in-person meetings on Wednesday, but left that night without a final agreement.
“We’re still close and we’re going to get there,” said McConnell, as he left negotiations, according to the AP.