Less than 48 hours after President Donald Trump claimed that "the Senate will start the process for a vote that increases checks to $2,000, repeals Section 230, and starts an investigation into voter fraud," the actual boss of the Senate had his say.
"Those are the three important subjects the President has linked together," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday. "This week the Senate will begin a process to bring these three priorities into focus."
(That statement came after he blocked Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer's attempt to pass the House-approved measure that would send $2,000 stimulus checks to all eligible Americans.)
Read that McConnell statement quickly and you think it's just him saying something to say something -- without any meaning behind it.
But go back and read McConnell's quote again.
"Those are the three important subjects the President has linked together," he said of $2,000 stimulus checks, an investigation into (nonexistent) voter fraud and a repeal of Section 230, a part of the Communications Decency Act that alleviates liability for social media companies for what their users post.
Notice the words "linked together" from McConnell. As in, Trump linked that trio of issues together -- and McConnell will, too. (McConnell's move Tuesday afternoon to combine the larger stimulus checks with the elimination of Section 230 suggests this is, indeed, the direction he is headed.)
Why does it matter? Because, as I wrote earlier this week, a straight up-or-down vote on sending out $2,000 checks is a very, very tough one for Republicans -- especially considering that every Democrat would vote for it.
But that vote becomes entirely different if the $2,000 checks are linked to a voter fraud investigation and the repeal of Section 230. Democrats would oppose such a measure en masse. And that would make it VERY unlikely that the bill would get the 60 votes it would need to end debate and push to a final floor vote.
If things played out that way, McConnell would be able to tell Trump he did his level best to make the President's wishes come true while also not exposing vulnerable GOP incumbents to a straight yes-no vote on the $2,000 checks. Which is a win-win from McConnell's perspective.
One possible wrench in this plan: Vermont's Sen. Bernie Sanders has said he will block the Senate's override of Trump's veto of the annual defense bill unless and until McConnell guarantees a vote on the $2,000 checks on their own.
Who says legislative machinations are boring?!?
The Point: McConnell is the master of this stuff. But it's not yet clear that even he can keep the Senate from a straight up-or-down vote on the larger stimulus checks.