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Wily Mitch McConnell may get last word on $2K relief checks

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Just ahead of New Year’s Eve, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has dropped the political excrement in D.C.’s punch bowl.

As President Donald Trump and congressional Democrats finally found something to agree on – boosting individual COVIID-19 relief checks from $600 to $2,000 – McConnell on Tuesday opted to give the president other things he’s been demanding, which Democrats will surely snub.

The wily Kentucky Republican tied the coronavirus-payment measure, which had passed the House and was garnering increased support from GOP lawmakers, to a repeal of Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act and to the creation of a bipartisan committee to study election fraud.

Democrats were naturally outraged that McConnell bundled these things together, after he blocked efforts to treat the stimulus checks as a standalone item.

Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin said McConnell had decided “to throw in a few poison pills in here to see if we can discourage people from voting for this.”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York maintained that McConnell was playing a “cynical gambit.” McConnell, he said, “knows how to make $2,000 survival checks reality and he knows how to kill them. If Sen. McConnell tries loading up the bipartisan House-passed CASH Act with unrelated, partisan provisions that will do absolutely nothing to help struggling families across the country, it will not pass the House and cannot become law.”

McConnell, based on news reports, apparently considered the initial $600 payments a done deal after ushering through the $900 billion COVID-relief bill that Trump recently signed. He seems to be listening to GOP senators who complained about further blowing out the debt and putting the nation’s solvency at further risk. The increased payments would add another $463 billion in new spending.

Yet McConnell could argue he was only delivering what Trump wanted.

On Tuesday, after learning of McConnell’s maneuvering to block votes on the new virus package, the president tweeted, “Unless Republicans have a death wish, and it is also the right thing to do, they must approve the $2000 payments ASAP. $600 IS NOT ENOUGH! Also, get rid of Section 230 – Don’t let Big Tech steal our Country, and don’t let the Democrats steal the Presidential Election. Get tough!”

Section 230, which provides legal protections to internet publishers, has been in the GOP’s crosshairs for some time. Originally designed to control online distribution of pornography, it provides internet publishers legal protection from things posted on their sites by third parties. But conservatives have complained that Big Tech firms have hidden behind Section 230 to censor content favorable to Republicans.

Meanwhile, the proposed commission would follow through on Trump’s allegations of widespread voter fraud in the election. While the president has struggled to produce evidence of that in various courts, Democrat Joe Biden’s performance on Election Day, quirks in vote counting in some states and questionable vote-gathering practices – such as ballot harvesting and extending deadlines for accepting mail-in ballots administratively rather than legislatively – have fueled Trump’s speculation that something was wrong.

The Senate is expected to consider McConnell’s measure today.

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