Second stimulus check: news summary for 31 December, 2020

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Stimulus relief bill: live updates

Second stimulus check: headlines

- Mitch McConnell objects to a Senate vote on the $2,000 stimulus checks for the third day running on Thursday. 

Mitch McConnell admits that the bill to increase stimulus checks to $2,000 has "no realistic path to quickly pass the Senate" on Wednesday.

- Pelosi and Gingrich press McConnell to allow vote on 'clean' bill for $2,000 stimulus checks

- Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says $600 checks could arrive by direct deposit as early as Wednesday.

- Senate to vote on overriding Trump defense bill veto as president lashes out at "pathetic" Republican leaders.

- Georgia Senate run-off "too close to call" say pollsters, with control of upper house to be decided on 5 January.

- Dollar loses ground over economic aid bill concerns.

- Sen. McConnell is introducing a new bill with $2,000 stimulus checks but it’s tied to a repeal of the social media-related Section 230 and finance for election fraud investigation.

- President Trump urges Republican senators to "get tough" and approve the $2,000 stimulus checks after McConnell blocks Senate vote.

- Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell twice blocks immediate vote on $2,000 stimulus checks on Senate floor on Tuesday after House moved to pass bill on Monday.

- US House on Monday passed bill that would increase covid stimulus payments from $600 to $2,000 by 275-134 vote.

Related stories: 

Trump, Biden New Year messages

President Donald Trump in a New Year's Eve message reflected on his accomplishments in office, calling them "historic victories," while his successor, President-elect Joe Biden, struck an upbeat tone in looking ahead to 2021.

After weeks of vowing to win his fight to remain in office, Republican Trump said in a video posted on Twitter: "We have to be remembered for what's been done."

Trump, who has yet to formally concede his November election defeat to his Democratic rival, returned to Washington early from his Florida resort amid a fight with Congress over a defense bill and coronavirus aid checks.

Speaking from Rehobeth Beach, Delaware, Biden paid tribute to healthcare workers and encouraged people to get vaccinated in a brief appearance with his wife, Jill Biden, on the long-running ABC special "Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest 2021."

"I'm absolutely, positively confident - confident - we're going to come back and we're going to come back even stronger than before," said Biden, who takes office on 20 January.

He repeated his call for vaccines to be distributed more quickly.

"We showed grit, tenacity, resolve and saved millions of American lives" - Trump

President Donald Trump left his his Mar-A-Lago resort to return to the White House on New Year's Eve and posted a video in which he hailed a "medical miracle" in a speech that lasted close to five minutes. "Years from now they'll be talking about this great, great thing that we did with the vaccines - a truly unprecedented, amazing, medical miracle".

Trump extends freeze on skilled worker visas until March

President Trump will extend a freeze on various temporary work visas, which will affect hundreds of highly-skilled foreign workers. The move will have an impact  on tech workers who want to enter the country on H-1B visas, seasonal workers in the tourism industry and certain au pairs on J-1 visas. The original freeze on new applicants for foreign visas was signed by Trump earlier in June and is due to expire today.

Sanders blasts McConnell for "inaccurate" stimulus bill comments

Vermont Independent Senator Bernie Sanders spoke about increasing stimulus checks to $2,000 and responded to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's claims that it amounted to “socialism for rich people.” Sanders retorted, "That's what we do every single day, that's why we have the incredible level of inequality in wealth that exists in this country because decade after decade we have used this money to provide massive tax breaks for the rich, to provide corporate welfare for corporations who don't need it - that is socialism for the rich. Let's talk about what is in this bill. According to the Tax Policy Center, less that 1% of the benefits of the direct payment, that's the $2,000 for working class adults, will go to the top 5%, virtually nothing goes to the very, very rich. The overwhelming majority of those funds go to the middle class, the working class, low-income people who in the midst of the pandemic are in desperate economic condition."

How to check payment status in IRS portal

How much the total stimulus could be remains a mystery as Congress hurtles towards the end of 2020, here’s how to track your check when it comes...

While the debate on $2k payments will continue into the New Year, the $600 stimulus checks that have already been approved under the new stimulus bill have started to be sent out...

McConnell now controls Republican caucas

Bill Moyers claims that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, "not Trump, now controls the Republican caucus.", after the Kentucky senator blocked a vote on $2,000 stimulus checks, despite many in his own party being in favor of the proposal, including Donald Trump.

Rep. Kevin Brady blames Dems fro blocking $2k stimulus checks

Republican representative Kevin Brady has blamed Senate Democrats for blocking the $2,000 stimulus checks. While Democrats wanted a "clean" bill on the stimulus payments, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has moved to have the proposal lumped together in one bill with two other Trump-backed proposals that Dems have labelled "poison pills". 

Senate session ends...

... with no movement on the $2,000 stimulus checks as Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has once again objected to a vote on the House-passed bill. 

Sanders asks McConnell to "give us the opportunity to vote up or down on whether or not working families in the country should be able to receive a $2,000 check. Senator McConnell disagrees. Come to the floor and tell us why you disagree."

Sanders points out that McConnell's homestate of Kentucky is where "10 of the 25 of the most poorest counties in America exist."

McConnell objects to vote on $2,000 stimulus checks again

McConnell objects again, for the third day running, to a vote on the $2,000 stimulus checks. Bernie Sanders is now speaking in response: "The argument (of McConnell) that this bill is in some significant way benefits the rich is just not accurate."

Schumer says that with the $2000 payments, "We have a chance at the end of this painful year to give Americans hope in 2021."

Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer asks McConnell to "give us a vote now on the House-passed bill, so we can get the help to the people who need it". 

Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer asks McConnell to "give us a vote now on the House-passed bill, so we can get the help to the people who need it". 

“Let me say that again. Borrowing from our grandkids to do socialism for rich people is a terrible way to get help to families who actually need it."

McConnell: "Socialism for rich people"

McConnell calls the $2,000 stimulus check bill "socialism for rich people" in his Senate opening speech. 

The Senate is in session!

The Senate is in session and Mitch McConnel is currently speaking and voicing his objections to the $2,000 stimulus checks.

Former Clinton advisor urges Republicans to unblock vote

Zac Petkanas, a former senior advisor to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, has accused Senate Republicans of stalling the bill on $2,000 stimulus checks and focusing on the Georgia run-off instead. 

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Trump to forego New Year's Eve in Florida for early return to Washington

US President Donald Trump on Thursday was due to fly back to Washington a day earlier than planned, as he continued his fight with Congress over a defense bill and stimulus checks as well as a long-shot bid to overturn his November election defeat.

Trump, who originally was scheduled to attend a New Year's Eve party at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, is expected to leave for Washington at around 11 am EST (1600 GMT).

The White House has given no reason for the change, but it coincides with Trump's fight with Congress over his veto of a major defense bill and his demand for increased covid-19 stimulus checks, as well as a spike in tensions with Iran.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the top Republican in the chamber, dealt a likely death blow on Wednesday to Trump's bid to boost coronavirus aid to Americans, declining to schedule a swift vote on a bill to raise relief checks to $2,000 from the $600 included in the relief package passed by Congress earlier this month.

Trump had ramped up pressure on fellow Republicans to back the bigger checks for struggling Americans in a series of tweets in recent days in which he attacked Republican leaders as "pathetic" and accused the party of having a "death wish" if it did not increase stimulus payments.

Republicans in Congress have largely stuck with Trump through four turbulent years, but the president is angry that they have not fully backed his claims of election fraud in the 3 November election that was won by Democrat Joe Biden. 

The run-off in Georgia to decide if Republicans or Democrats will control the Senate and set the agenda for the Biden presidency is too close to call, according to the few pollsters willing to chance their arm on the 5 January vote.

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Biden, Trump to campaign in Georgia on eve of Senate runoffs

President-elect Joe Biden and President Donald Trump will campaign next week in Georgia, holding dueling events on the eve of runoff elections that will determine who controls the US Senate and the fate of Biden's legislative agenda.

The visits come as Trump escalates his fight with fellow Republican leaders in the state for not supporting his bid to overturn the election results. On Wednesday, he called for the state's Republican governor, Brian Kemp, to resign

Biden, who takes office on 20 January, will travel to Atlanta on Monday to campaign on behalf of Democratic Senate candidates Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, his transition team said on Wednesday. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will go to Savannah, Georgia, a day earlier. 

On the same day Biden appears in Atlanta, Trump will travel to Dalton, Georgia, to hold a "victory rally" to support Republican incumbent Senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue. The candidates square off in an election on Tuesday.

If the Democrats win both seats, the Senate would be split 50-50 with the Republican Party, giving the tie-breaking vote to Harris and control of both congressional chambers to the Democratic Party.

More than 2.5 million votes have already been cast in the runoff races, according to the Georgia secretary of state's office.

(Photos by JIM WATSON and MANDEL NGAN / AFP)

Bernie Sanders criticizes Mitch McConnell over $2,000 check

Bernie Sanders slammed the delay in the $2,000 second stimulus check by comparing the $1.4 billion tax break  given to Charles Koch and his family. 

Where's my second stimulus check? Required information to apply

The income eligibility requirements for the second round of stimulus checks - officially known as Economic Impact Payments - will be very similar to those used in the CARES Act.

Find out the full requirements below:

How to check your payment status in the IRS portal

Here’s how to track your check when it comes. The process will be much the same as last time, and the IRS will be using its “Get My Payment” tool to help you know the status of your payment.

Full story:

Bernie Sanders reacts to delay in passage of coronavirus relief bill

“It is unconscionable to me to see members of Congress fleeing home to their families while all over this country you’ve got families who are struggling to put food on the table,” says Senator Bernie Sanders. “We have got to stay here and do the right thing. And that is pass legislation.”

Americans expected to save their stimulus check

Experts believe that most of the 160 million people who would receive money from a second stimulus check are more likely to save it than spend it.

McConnell blocks effort to increase stimulus checks

CNN - Things are going to drag on in the Senate for a few days it seems. There is absolutely no sign right now that a standalone bill on $2,000 checks is going to get a vote on the Senate floor. It looks like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is going to run out the clock. There were several opportunities on Tuesday when McConnell could have made that assurance or let Democrats pass the bill with a unanimous consent agreement that would have shielded his members from having to take a potentially tough vote.

Declaring that he would not be “bullied” by Democrats into quickly approving the measure, McConnell effectively denied a final request for legislative action by the president in the waning days of his administration.

“We just approved almost a trillion dollars in aid a few days ago,” McConnell said, referring to the passage of a massive $900bn stimulus package that included $600 direct payments to most American adults. “It struck a balance between broad support for all kinds of households and a lot more targeted relief for those who need help most.”

McConnell says quick approval of $2,000 stimulus check is unrealistic

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has admitted that the bill to increase stimulus checks to $2,000 has "no realistic path to quickly pass the Senate", dampening the hopes of millions of Americans hoping that increased payments could be approved before the New Year.

For the second day runnning, McConnell again blocked quick passage of a bill to increase coronavirus stimulus payments to $2,000, instead choosing to lump this measure together under one bill with other Trump-backed proposals that Democrat's have labelled "poison pills". 

Schiff tells Mitch it's simple

"It just requires you and your fellow Senate Republicans to care enough about struggling families to give it a simple up or down vote."

Senate debate:

Senator Ed Markey: "People are literally starving, cold and without homes.

"Meanwhile, the Republican leadership would rather head home for the New Year and ignore the health and financial crises taking the toll on millions of Americans."

Senate debate:

Sanders: "We have a very unlikely ally in President Trump. Here is what the leader of the Republican party says: '$2000 ASAP'

"On this issue amazingly enough the POTUS is RIGHT"

"Let me just make it clear for the majority leader, that 10 out of the poorest 25 counties in the United States of America are located in Kentucky. So maybe my colleague might want to get on the phone and start talking to working families in Kentucky."

Senate debate:

Schumer: "There is no other game in town besides the House bill.

"The only way to get to the American people the $2,000 checks they deserve and need is to pass the House bill..House has recessed.. Any modification or addition to the house bill to not become law."

Senate debate:

McConnell: "Senate is not going split apart the 3 issues that Pres Trump linked together just because Democrats are afraid to address 2 of them.

"Senate's not going to be bullied into rushing out more borrowed money into the hands of Democratic rich friends who don't need the help."

Scams and hoaxes

With the $600 stimulus/survival checks in the process of being issued, it is worth remembering that some people will be looking to take advantage of those in desperate need.

Here's a piece we did back in the summer following the first round of checks were sent.

Checks and benefits

The US Congress and President Donald Trump have already approved a new $900 billion economic rescue package which, in addition to a second stimulus check, contained an extension for unemployment benefits.

But many people have been asking if they are eligible for both.

Why did McConnell introduce ‘poison pill’ legislation on $2,000 stimulus checks?

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has introduced a bill for the $2,000 stimulus checks, but he tied it to President Trump’s two other demands, repeal of online liability protections (known as section 230) and establishing a commission to study voter fraud.

Why did McConnell introduce the legislation? Mainly, it appears, because the two Republican senators in Georgia facing absolutely vital run-off elections on 5 January - David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler - have both said they support the $2,000 stimulus check. This bill, therefore, gives them the opportunity to support the $2,000 checks, but the reality is that by tying it to Trump’s other demands, which Dems will almost certainly oppose, McConnell has no real risk this could become law.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer was incensed by the move, calling it a “cynical gambit” and said it was a “blatant attempt” to ensure that that stimulus checks would not be increased from $600 to $2,000.

"If we start adding poison pills to the $2,000 payment bill, that is just another way of telling the American people that this body doesn't support $2,000 payments," was the view of Democrat Senator Chris Murphy.

What is also not clear is whether McConnell’s legislation will ever actually be voted on. The GOP leader has introduced the bill and moved to place it on the Senate calendar, but that’s no guarantee it will come up before the end of the 116th Congress on 3 January.

Republican Senator Susan Collins gave her thoughts on what was expected to happen this week: “Good question… No one knows. That was unexpected.”

Frustrating final week of 2020

Donald Trump's signing of the bill did not come soon enough to prevent millions of out-of-work Americans from missing out on emergency benefits for the final week of 2020.

The House of Representatives on Monday voted in favour of raising the amount of a second round of stimulus checks included in the package to $2,000 from the $600 originally budgeted for. The proposal will now have to go to the Senate floor for a second vote with Democrats urging Republicans to push it through despite concerns over the strain on Federal coffers.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has added a list of conditions before he will allow the vote to reach the chamber floor, including the repeal of Section 230, which governs liability shielding for Big Tech firms, and the convening of a commission to investigate election fraud. 

Hello & welcome: Relief bill and second stimulus check updates

Hello and welcome to our live blog on the last day of 2020, where we will be bringing you the latest developments on the new, $900bn coronavirus relief bill, which President Donald Trump signed into law last Sunday.

"The President is signing this bill to restore unemployment benefits, stop evictions, provide rental assistance, add money for PPP, return our airline workers back to work, add substantially more money for vaccine distribution, and much more," a statement issued by the White House read.

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