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Congress wound down without $2,000 stimulus checks. Here's what could happen next.

Savannah Behrmann, USA TODAY
·5 min read
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WASHINGTON – The Senate adjourned Friday night without securing $2,000 stimulus checks, leaving hopes for another round of payments in the hands of the next Congress.

The Senate did not take up whether to increase the $600 stimulus check payments that President Donald Trump demanded be raised to $2,000. Now, Congress will not reconvene until Sunday to end the 116th Congress, and usher in the 117th.

Senate Democrats, some Republicans and independent Sen. Bernie Sanders unsuccessfully pushed for a Senate vote on $2,000 stimulus checks as the clock wound down.

More: House approves increasing stimulus checks to $2,000 for Americans, sends bill to Senate

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., on the Senate floor, said Friday: "The Senate can start off this new year by adding to that sense of hope by sending $2,000 checks to struggling American families" as he pushed for a vote. That effort was blocked when a Republican senator objected.

"This is it — the last chance for the 116th Congress to pass $2,000 checks and to say to regular Americans that help is on the way. Let's have a vote," Schumer said.

No vote in the Senate for $2,000 checks

The House on Monday approved giving Americans weathering the coronavirus pandemic $2,000 stimulus checks, but the measure never came to a vote in the Senate.

A new Congress will be sworn in Sunday, with Democrats losing seats but still retaining a small majority in the House.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., on Thursday rebuffed the effort for the Senate to take up legislation increasing relief checks from $600 to $2,000, calling it "socialism for rich people."

On Tuesday, McConnell introduced his own version of the $2,000 legislation that would link the payments to two issues opposed by Democrats: the creation of an advisory committee that would" study the integrity and administration" of the November general election and repeal of Section 230 the Communications Decency Act. McConnell's measure never came to a vote.

But the push for a $2,000 check gained the support of a few more Senate Republicans after President Donald Trump called on Congress to increase the amount — something some Democrats promoted for months. The unexpected move stunned Republicans on the Hill as Trump and his administration had helped negotiate the relief package with the $600 checks.

More: New COVID-19 stimulus bill is half of March's. How else it differs.

What's next for legislation for $2,000 checks

Democrats vowed to swiftly revive the $2,000 checks after the new Congress is sworn in Sunday.

“President-elect Joe Biden has made clear that the pandemic relief bill that Congress passed is simply a down payment on the work that needs to continue,” said Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., the chair of the House Democratic caucus. “We’re going to continue to fight for a $2,000 direct payment check.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., was the one of the few GOP senators pushing for a standalone vote on the $2,000 stimulus checks, saying that in "the new Congress, you could get a vote."

"I'd like a standalone vote in the new Congress on the $2,000 check" he said during an interview on Fox and Friends. "We have seven Republicans who have already said they'd vote for it. We need five more. I think if we had the vote, we would get there."

Runoff races: Debate over $2,000 checks could spur turnout in Georgia Senate races

Two of those also include Sens. Kelly Loeffler an David Perdue of Georgia, who face runoff elections on Jan. 5 — races that will determine which political party controls the upper chamber of Congress.

Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., "I can't for the life of me understand why we cannot get a vote. We can't even seem to have a debate on it. With all due respect, this doesn't seem to be a Republicans versus Democrats issue. This seems to be a Senate versus the United States of America."

President-elect Joe Biden applauded Congress for doing "its job" in passing the bipartisan coronavirus relief legislation, which Trump signed on Sunday.

He also voiced support for a third stimulus bill, adding that he "must" ask Congress to "do it again next year."

What this Congress accomplished

The furor over raising the amount of the stimulus checks came during a chaotic end to a session of Congress that resembles few others for the sheer number of crises and political standoffs as Trump's presidency defined and changed the legislative branch.

Congress opened in 2019 with the federal government shutdown over Trump's demands for money to build the border wall with Mexico. Nancy Pelosi regained the speaker's gavel after Democrats swept to the House majority in the midterm election.

The Democratic-led House went on to impeach the president over his request to the Ukrainian president to “do us a favor” against Biden ahead of the presidential election. The Republican-led Senate acquitted Trump in 2020 of the charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

COVID aid: Trump reverses on coronavirus relief, signs package he called a 'disgrace'

When the pandemic struck, Congress rallied with unusual speed and agreement to pass a $2 trillion relief package, the largest federal intervention of its kind in U.S. history.

The Congress had few other notable legislative accomplishes and could not agree on how to respond to the racial injustice reckoning that erupted after the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other Black Americans at the hands of law enforcement.

Instead, the Senate was primarily focused on filling the courts with Trump's conservative judicial nominees, including confirming his third Supreme Court justice, Amy Coney Barrett.

The Associated Press contributed

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Stimulus checks: Congress adjourns without passing $2,000 checks