McConnell refuses $2,000 virus relief checks unless Democrats OK voter suppression

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The Senate majority leader wants yet another commission to study voter fraud.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced Tuesday that he will consider giving $2,000 stimulus checks to struggling Americans — but only if Democrats agree to more voter suppression.

McConnell (R-KY) filed a bill that would increase the previously passed $600 payments for most Americans that were part of last week's $908 billion compromise pandemic relief legislation by $1,400. However the legislation would also create a new commission to study supposed voter fraud and "make recommendations to Congress to improve the security, integrity, and administration of Federal elections," as well as punish tech companies that Donald Trump has falsely claimed unfairly discriminate against conservatives.

Voter fraud "investigations" have been used for decades to suppress votes, particularly in minority communities, allowing officials to throw out or scrutinize their ballots or remove people's names from voter rolls.

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Trump attacked the bipartisan relief bill his own administration had helped negotiate as a "disgrace" last week, suggesting that the $600 payments were too "measly."

"Why would politicians not want to give people $2000, rather than only $600," he tweeted on Friday. "It wasn’t their fault, it was China. Give our people the money!"

On Monday, a bipartisan supermajority in the House of Representatives voted (275 to 134) to up the payments to $2,000.

Several Senate Republicans have also backed the idea. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) tweeted on Tuesday, "We've got the votes. Let's vote today."

Despite this, McConnell blocked an effort by Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer to advance the bill by unanimous consent.

Instead, McConnell introduced a bill that stands little chance of passing, given its unrelated provisions that are unpalatable to Senate Democrats.

"Sen. McConnell knows how to make $2,000 survival checks reality and he knows how to kill them," Schumer (D-NY) said. "Will Senate Republicans go along with Sen. McConnell's cynical gambit or will they push him to give a vote on the standalone House-passed [version]?"

This is not the first time Republicans have pushed for a commission to examine the largely imaginary problem of voter fraud. After Trump lost the popular vote in the 2016 presidential election, he announced a "major investigation" he hoped would demonstrate that millions of votes for Hillary Clinton had been illegal.

After more than a year of investigation, his handpicked voter integrity commission found no evidence of widespread voter fraud before it was disbanded. "It’s calling into the darkness, looking for voter fraud," one commission member told the Associated Press in 2018. "There’s no real evidence of it anywhere."

Despite Trump's baseless assertions that the 2020 election in Georgia was replete with fraud and that President-elect Joe Biden did not really win the state, a just-completed audit by the state's Republican secretary of state also found virtually no issues and more than 99% accuracy in Cobb County.

McConnell's latest push comes as Republicans in Georgia and other swing states Biden won are proposing voting rights rollbacks aimed at making it harder for people to vote in the future.

McConnell's proposal would also repeal Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, which would rescind legal protections for technology companies. If that happened, it would make Internet service providers legally liable for things posted online by their users.

In the meantime, many Americans who continue to face massive economic hardships due to the pandemic will have to make due with just $600 each. Millions remain unemployed and the country has seen record spikes in the number of people living in poverty — with roughly 7.8 million Americans falling below the poverty line over just the past five months.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.