Headlines Wednesday centered around the distribution of $600 stimulus checks and direct deposits, which began making their way to Americans’ bank accounts, even as a push to increase the payments to $2,000 stalled in the Senate.
Mitch McConnell could have moved quickly to upsize the payments, but instead chose a more circuitous route, likely because he knows it’s doomed to fail. In short, he intends to link the larger checks to Donald Trump’s other demands, including a repeal of social media’s liability shield and the establishment of a panel to examine alleged fraud in the election.
For the second straight day, McConnell objected to Chuck Schumer’s bid to push the $2,000 checks through the Senate. Republicans also rejected a request from Bernie Sanders. Again. I suppose it’s worth noting (and social media certainly noticed) that this could have been on the books by now. The House passed the standalone bill earlier this week and there is some GOP support for it in the Senate, where at least a few lawmakers would rather swallow a bitter pill than risk the president’s ire and, more consequential, chance jeopardizing the Georgia runoffs. That’s not to say there’s anything like “broad” support from McConnell’s conference — there’s not. It’s just that this issue is thorny, and the public is restless.
The excuses from McConnell are becoming more belabored. On Wednesday, for example, he said Democrats are trying to “rush out more money into the hands of [their] rich friends who don’t need the help.” He then claimed Senate Republicans are being “bullied.” It’s hard to know what to say about that. The idea that Democrats are trying to send Hollywood actors and tech moguls $2,000 (which is what it sounded like McConnell was trying to suggest) is so laughable that one struggles to understand how even the notoriously deadpan Mitch can say it with a straight face.
The bottom line is that McConnell doesn’t intend to separate the upsized checks from legislation on Trump’s social media crusade and election battle. And that will probably doom the whole endeavor.
Neither Republicans nor Democrats are keen to rush a wholesale Section 230 repeal and the prospect of attaching it to the defense bill, as Trump insisted while “explaining” an otherwise inexplicable veto earlier this month, is too much even for some of the president’s staunchest supporters on the Hill. Defunding the military in order to pursue a grudge against Twitter (and that’s essentially what this boils down to) is simply a bridge too far, although there are a couple of lawmakers willing to cross it with Trump.
As for any commission on election fraud, Democrats will justifiably object. Trump has tried every maneuver imaginable to overturn the vote, up to and including pressuring state legislatures. He’s been rebuffed at every turn. The Supreme Court clearly wants to nothing to do with the cases, and who can blame them?
Josh Hawley, who wholeheartedly supports the larger checks, by the way, said Wednesday he’ll challenge Joe Biden’s victory next week, which means both the House and the Senate will end up in a debate over the results. McConnell repeatedly advised GOP senators not to indulge Trump on this particular issue, but certification of Biden’s win will now be delayed. At least for a few hours. More importantly, though, everyone will be forced onto the record. Hold that thought.
A motley crew of House GOPers has long been prepared to contest the results, but they needed to convince at least one senator to embarrass him or herself. Hawley obliged.
None of this has any chance of succeeding, of course. A simple majority will override Hawley’s objection to the certification. For the effort to succeed in earnest, Hawley and the handful of House Republicans spearheading this farce would somehow need to secure majorities in both chambers to sustain an objection. Obviously, that’s impossible.
Hawley seems unconcerned about the ramifications of this for his colleagues. As The New York Times noted, “taking such a vote would put Republican senators in a position many have labored to avoid so as not to alienate their base – going on the record to either endorse or dismiss Trump’s claims that the election was stolen from him.”
This is, to put it mildly, another instance of a Republican undermining his own party in order to clear Trump’s increasingly high bar for fealty.
Remember: That isn’t even the most extreme idea for overturning the election. Earlier this week, Louie Gohmert sued Mike Pence in an effort to effectively force him to simply throw out Biden’s electors and declare Trump president. And no, that is not an exaggeration.
Incoming White House press secretary, Jennifer Psaki, brushed it all aside. “Regardless of whatever antics anyone is up to on January 6, President-elect Biden will be sworn in on the 20th,” she said.
Hawley was trolled by Walmart on Twitter. A reply from the retailer’s official, verified account read: “Go ahead. Get your 2 hour debate. #soreloser.”
Later, Casey Staheli, the company’s senior manager of national media relations, said the reply was an accident. “The tweet was mistakenly posted by a member of our social media team who intended to publish this comment to their personal account,” Staheli said, in a statement to Newsweek. “We have removed the post and have no intention of commenting on the subject of certifying the Electoral College.”
For his part, Trump appeared to spend a good portion of Wednesday tweeting. At one point, the president insisted that Georgia governor Brian Kemp resign for “refus[ing] to admit that we won Georgia, BIG!” Trump didn’t win Georgia. Big or otherwise. If he had, Kemp would have gladly said so. “There is a constitutional and legal process… and I am very comfortable letting that process play out,” Kemp told reporters, who asked about Trump’s tweet. “That horse has left the barn in Georgia,” he added.
Over the past 48 hours, Trump’s election claims have escalated, assuming that’s possible. Twitter is now assigning a label to his tweets that reads: “Election officials have certified Joe Biden as the winner of the US Presidential election.”
This is all highly unfortunate. And it’s exacerbating societal rifts and undermining a teetering, fragile democracy, which desperately needs cohesion and solidarity in order to help stop the spread of a deadly disease, which continues to claim thousands of American lives each day.
On Wednesday, California health officials said the state had identified its first known case of the COVID mutation currently rampaging across the UK. The news follows a similar announcement from Colorado officials.
What’s particularly notable about all of the above is that there is almost no connection (whatsoever) to conservative values or traditional GOP orthodoxy. This isn’t about ideals or party affiliation anymore. This is all about one man. And he’d have it no other way.