Trump's surprise demand for $2,000 stimulus checks blew up Mitch McConnell's master plan and leaves him in a no-win situation

  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is under pressure after President Trump called for larger stimulus checks.
  • McConnell has for months led Republican efforts to limit how much Congress could approve in COVID-19 stimulus spending.
  • But after lawmakers reached a hard-fought compromise, Trump undermined his own party by calling for $2,000 checks instead of $600.
  • Democrats quickly sided with the president. McConnell now has to cave, or stand firm and try to justify denying larger payments to Americans.
  • Reports have suggested that McConnell fears that being too stingy over the issue could play badly in the upcoming Georgia runoff elections, and cost the GOP control of the Senate.
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President Donald Trump launched a surprise effort Tuesday night to push for stimulus checks in the COVID-19 relief package to be hiked from $600 per person to $2,000.

Democrats cheered his demand, piling pressure on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and leaving him in a no-win situation.

Trump on Tuesday released a video criticizing the $900 billion coronavirus relief package after it passed Congress supported, demanding that Congress increase the value of the checks.

Democratic leaders cheered Trump's announcement, saying they supported the $2,000 amount and noting that Republicans had blocked earlier proposals for bigger checks.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer tweeted that "We spent months trying to secure $2000 checks but Republicans blocked it."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Democrats would organise a vote on increasing the amount.

This leaves the next move to McConnell, who has for months insisted on a smaller stimulus package, including rejecting Democratic proposals for $1,200 checks.

It leaves him with two undesirable options:

  • He can cave and accept a larger stimulus figure after spending months fighting to keep it down.
  • He can block the larger checks and take the political heat for it.

It is worth noting that even if Trump vetoes the spending bill — which he did not explicitly threaten to do in his video — Congress could still force it through by getting enough votes to override his veto.

But that process could be politically damaging — and there is no guarantee that the Congressional math will stay the same in the light of Trump's new demand.

One reason McConnell may fear blowback for keeping the checks at $600 is the forthcoming elections for both Senate seats in Georgia, which the GOP needs to hold to avoid losing control of the entire Senate.

The New York Times reported last week that McConnell only decided to back $600 checks after hearing that opposition to them was harming the Senate campaigns in Georgia.

Schumer directly called McConnell out on Twitter on Tuesday, writing: "I'm in. Whaddya say, Mitch? Let's not get bogged down with ideological offsets and unrelated items and just DO THIS! The American people deserve it"

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a progressive Democrat, also noted that she and Rep. Rashida Tlaib had already written an amendment that was "ready to go."

She said: "We can pass $2k checks this week if the Senate GOP agrees to stand down."

The $900 billion package was the product of talks between a bipartisan group of senators after months of failed negotiations between Democrats and Republicans over how much should be spent, and on what.

Aides told The Washington Post that administration officials spent the last few days negotiating the stimulus package without explicitly consulting with Trump, and that Trump was distracted by his efforts to overturn his loss in the presidential election.

Previous reports said that Trump aides had talked him out of insisting on larger checks during the negotiations for fear of ruining the chances of a deal.

Evidently, their efforts only succeeded in delaying the demand until later  — and creating an acute problem for his own party.

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