Loeffler says she'll support $2,000 checks as Senate GOP shifts towards Trump's position

Six days ago she said she was open to boosting COVID relief checks to $2,000 per adult if that spending was offset by cuts to some of the porkier elements in the omnibus spending bill.

Trump has now signed that bill. And no cuts will be forthcoming, needless to say.

Now here she is seemingly embracing $2,000 checks anyway. I’m used to watching Republican senators cave on new spending while getting nothing in return but it’s strange watching them cave on new spending that’ll directly benefit average people.

What choice did she have in the end? She was being pressured from both sides, by the president himself on the right and by Raphael Warnock on the left. The obvious play was for her to support boosting the checks and take the issue off the table with her runoff election now just one week away.

There was never any suspense that Loeffler would cave on $2,000 checks. There *is* some suspense this morning whether another 11 Republicans in the Senate might join her. That’s how many Schumer needs to beat a filibuster. Axios thinks he might have a chance of getting them:

A couple of days ago, it looked impossible that $2,000 COVID relief checks — up from the $600 checks for individuals in the package President Trump signed Sunday — could pass the Senate. That has changed with Trump’s final-hours advocacy for bigger checks, Republican sources tell Axios.

It’s still an uphill battle. But Republican senators are feeling more pressure from constituents — pumped by Trump — to do more.

It could be too politically risky for some Republican senators to vote “no.”

If Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell “brings it to the floor, it might get 60. Then Trump can claim victory,” said a Republican source who provided a breakdown of how the vote could go.

Loeffler’s in. Josh Hawley, who partnered with Bernie Sanders on boosting payments even before the COVID package was passed, is also on board. Same for Lindsey Graham, who probably feels obliged to support Trump’s demand after he convinced the president to avert disaster by signing the COVID relief bill as is. Marco Rubio, another Republican looking for ways to polish his Trumpy populist cred before his next primary in 2022, is in favor as well. “I share many of my colleagues’ concern about the long-term effects of additional spending, but we cannot ignore the fact that millions of working class families across the nation are still in dire need of relief,” he said in a statement yesterday. “Congress should quickly pass legislation to increase direct payments to Americans to $2,000.”

Schumer needs eight more. It’s a cinch that David Perdue will come around, as he has all the same incentives right now that Loeffler does. And Tom Cotton will probably join the effort, not wanting to be outflanked by Hawley ahead of the 2024 primaries. Can he get another six? Is McConnell even *trying* to stop him from getting those six, or has he thrown in the towel on resisting this extra spending now that Trump has tried to start a party civil war over it?

CNN is trying to game out Cocaine Mitch’s next move. Now that several Republicans have broken ranks, he may feel obliged to put the House bill on the floor and let his caucus have a formal say on it.

A vote for $2,000 checks could also boost Perdue and Loeffler in their races if they voted for it. The provision is popular. And, even if the measure didn’t pass, putting it on the floor would demonstrate to the President that McConnell tried, but the votes just weren’t there. McConnell, as usual, has been seeking the input of his members.

It’s also possible, and some Democratic aides CNN has spoken with are fearful that McConnell could tie a vote on $2,000 checks to a less popular provision making it tougher for Democrats to vote for. Remember, that Trump argued he’d gotten assurances that the Senate would also take up a repeal of Section 230, which protects web companies from liability for what third party users post on their sites. That would scramble party lines and make a vote on $2,000 checks much harder for Democrats to swallow.

Would McConnell really want to gamble on a poison pill involving Section 230 repeal, though? It might pass! Some Senate Republicans who are wary of spending more on beefier checks might be seduced by including a culture-war pander to their base in the bill. And some Dems who are all-in on boosting checks might not mind paying the price of jettisoning Section 230 to do so. Joe Biden has called for repealing Section 230, remember, and Elizabeth Warren has called for reforming it, believing that doing so would force Big Tech companies to get serious about eliminating disinformation from their platforms. This bill could pass the Senate — and then the House, as the same coalition could form there between anti-230 Republicans and pro-$2,000 Dems.

Nuking Section 230 and upending the Internet as we know it is something that should only be done after careful legislative deliberation about the consequences, not as a mindless populist afterthought to a bill aimed at helping Americans through a pressing economic crisis. But our government is no longer serious about policy so anything might happen here. I’d rather see McConnell offer a clean vote on boosting checks without the Section 230 poison pill, as we just can’t trust our legislators to have the good sense not to swallow that pill if given the chance.

I’m recycling our exit question from last week: Why on earth didn’t Trump demand $2,000 checks before the election, when doing so might have propelled him to victory? The excuse at the time was that Senate Republicans were dug in on pretend fiscal conservatism in anticipation of Biden taking power next year and wouldn’t dream of supporting another round of big checks, but the movement in the Senate today towards $2,000 puts the lie to that. Trump is a lame duck with 22 days left in his presidency and he still has enough juice among the base to create meaningful momentum among McConnell’s caucus towards making this happen. Imagine if he’d made this demand instead on, say, October 15. “Americans are desperate, Mitch! Let’s take care of our people and have another four years to continue making America great again!” It really might have worked.

Update: Annnnnnd there it is.