Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell now supports stimulus checks in the next stimulus package.
Here’s what you need to know.
As Congress shapes the next stimulus package, McConnell now backs a provision that millions of Americans have been waiting for: second stimulus checks. There are many reasons why you didn’t get a second stimulus check yet. However, while the stimulus package has not been finalized, McConnell could support one-time, $600 stimulus checks for individuals. Why now? Here are 5 potential reasons:
1. Stimulus checks could help bolster election prospects
According to the New York Times, McConnell (R-KY) wants to bolster two Republican runoff election campaigns for the U.S. Senate in Georgia on January 5. By approving direct payments prior to the election, McConnell can signal to Georgia voters that Republicans led the effort to provide tangible financial relief. The outcome of these two elections will determine the balance of power in the U.S. Senate next year. McConnell is politically shrewd, and this last-minute federal Coronavirus relief could make the difference in a two relatively close elections. If Republicans maintain control of the U.S. Senate, McConnell continues as majority leader and will play a central role in influencing public policy in the Biden administration.
2. Smaller stimulus checks could appease fiscal conservatives
Although the White House and congressional Democrats agreed on second stimulus checks in principle earlier this year, fiscal conservatives have opposed a new round of checks. In July, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told Fox News that “half of the Republicans are going to vote ‘no’ on any more aid. That’s just a fact.” For months, fiscal conservatives have expressed their opposition to large stimulus packages, including second stimulus checks. While the potential inclusion of stimulus checks won’t fully appease fiscal conservatives, a smaller stimulus check may provide some comfort.
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3. Stimulus checks could mean less unemployment insurance
Stimulus checks aren’t free. When it comes to economic stimulus, Congress may cut one program to pay for another. One possibility is that Congress reduces the amount of enhanced unemployment insurance to fund stimulus checks. For example, one proposal is to provide $300 a week unemployment benefits through April. However, with the potential inclusion of second stimulus checks, Congress may reduce the amount of unemployment insurance, which could terminate in March, for example. Again, this could connect to political posturing, as Senate Republicans can “claim victory” on both direct payments and employment insurance.
4. Stimulus checks could avoid large state and local aid
State and local aid has been a top priority for both Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). Pelosi and Schumer represent states—California and New York, respectively—that would be large recipients of state and local aid. While Democrats wanted as much as $1 trillion of support for state and local governments, Senate Republicans have lobbied to exclude state and local aid. Why? Senate Republicans believe that the funding would primarily go to Democrat governors and mayors who they believe shouldn’t receive bailouts. Stimulus checks give Republicans “cover” and shift the focus away from state and local aid.
5. Stimulus checks are necessary due to Covid-19 pandemic
McConnell may genuinely believe that Americans are hurting this holiday season and need essential financial relief. McConnell has supported stimulus checks in the past, including in the Cares Act (the $2.2 trillion stimulus package that Congress passed in March). Given the increase in Covid cases and ongoing financial uncertainty, McConnell could believe this is the time for the next round of direct payments.
There’s no guarantee that Congress will include second stimulus checks in the next stimulus package. Other members of Congress are lobbying to include $1,200 stimulus checks in the next stimulus package. For example, this includes Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) as well as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO), among others. Earlier this year, a $1,200 stimulus check seemed like a more realistic possibility given buy-in from the White House and congressional leadership, although a $1,200 stimulus check appears less likely.