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Coronavirus: Senate wrangles over boosting help for Americans

Coronavirus: Senate wrangles over boosting help for Americans thumbnail

Publishedduration4 hours agoimage copyrightGetty Imagesimage captionMitch McConnell (C) heading for the Senate floor on TuesdayThe US Senate is set to discuss boosting one-off payments for Americans hit by the coronavirus downturn.But Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, appeared to tie the issue to other unrelated proposals on legal immunity for tech companies and electoral fraud.Mr Trump,…

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image captionMitch McConnell (C) heading for the Senate floor on Tuesday

The US Senate is set to discuss boosting one-off payments for Americans hit by the coronavirus downturn.

But Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, appeared to tie the issue to other unrelated proposals on legal immunity for tech companies and electoral fraud.

Mr Trump, Democrats and some Republicans want the payments boosted from $600 (£441) to $2,000.

However, there is concern the latest wrangling could scupper any increase.

What is at stake?

Americans are to begin receiving $600 dollars each under a $900bn-coronavirus stimulus package signed into law on Sunday.

But President Trump, Democrats and a growing number of Republicans say that is not enough.

“Unless Republicans have a death wish, and it is also the right thing to do, they must approve the $2,000 payments ASAP,” Mr Trump tweeted on Tuesday.

From the left of the Democratic Party, former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is among those supporting a boost.

“The working class of this country today faces more economic desperation than at any time since the Great Depression of the 1930s,” he said.

Republicans also have an eye on two key Senate run-off elections in Georgia next week, which will determine which of the main parties controls the Senate. The two Republican candidates have come out in favour of increasing the payments.

What has Mr McConnell done?

Republicans have blocked a Democratic Party proposal for a quick vote on boosting the payments. Most Senate Republicans are opposed, saying they are not the best way of helping those hardest hit by the pandemic.

Senate majority leader McConnell has instead linked the issue to two other proposals.

One would end legal protection for tech companies, known as Section 230. The other would set up a bipartisan commission to investigate electoral fraud, something which Mr Trump has alleged in the presidential election without providing evidence.

Both proposals are favoured by Mr Trump, but opposed by Democrats.

Some are predicting that these proposals, along with increased coronavirus payments, could all fail to reach the statute book if they are linked in the legislative process.

Mr McConnell did not go into great detail on Tuesday, saying merely that the Senate would “begin a process” and bring all issues “into focus”.

Democrats have said they will defeat the new bill in the House of Representatives, which they control.

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What is Section 230?

Section 230 is the main legal protection for social networks, such as Twitter and Facebook, so they don’t get sued.

It means that generally, websites themselves aren’t responsible for illegal or offensive things that users post on them. They’re treated as neutral middlemen – like newspaper sellers, rather than the editors that decide what goes in the paper.

Originally seen as a way to protect internet service providers (like BT or Comcast), it’s become the main shield for huge sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, which can’t possibly review every post from their users before it goes up.

But politicians say Section 230 is outdated.

Democrats take issue with the spread of lies online with no consequences for the sites. Republicans argue that big tech is using its moderation powers to censor people it doesn’t agree with – making editorial calls rather than staying neutral.

And both sides agree they want to see the social networks held accountable.

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