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McConnell blocks Senate vote on $2K checks, hints at new package



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On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) blocked a Democratic effort to bring legislation that the House passed Monday to increase the money in stimulus checks from $600 to $2,000, despite President Donald Trump and others demanding this change to checks.

Congress, after months of negotiations, had agreed on the tinier $600 checks to individual Americans as part of a compromise to push through the massive end-of-the-year COVID-19 relief bill that Trump hesitantly signed into law on Sunday. Trump, however, is pushing for Congress to increase the amount of money in these checks to $2,000.

RELATED: Trump Signs Covid-19 Bill: Announces Congress Review of Section 230

The Kentucky Republican, who has spoken little publicly about Trump’s demands, did not directly explain why he objected, but under the Senate’s rules, any single senator can stonewall attempts to schedule votes or pass legislation. Additionally, the Republican leader offered little to no indication of his plans going forward.

“The Senate will begin a process,” McConnell said Tuesday, also saying he intends to bring Trump’s demand for the $2,000 checks and other issues left on the table “into focus.”

A growing list of Republicans, including the two Georgia senators facing contentious runoff elections on January 5 in the Peach State, have stated they will support the enlarged checks.

“I’m delighted to support the president,” said Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) on Fox News about Trump’s calls for $2,000 checks. In another interview on Fox, Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) expressed that she also supports this move.

Most Republican senators, nonetheless, still object to increased spending.

Tuesday morning before the Senate’s session, the president reemphasized his demands, tweeting: “$2000 for our great people, not $600!”

Both Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) attempted to get consent for the Senate to bring the legislation passed by the House on Monday up for a vote.

“We should not adjourn until the Senate holds a vote,” Schumer said, while making a motion to push the legislation toward a vote.

Moreover, Sanders, who’s leading a group of progressive senators who support the increased money in checks, will filibuster a vote to override Trump’s defense bill veto unless the Senate holds a vote on sending $2,000 checks to individual Americans.

“McConnell and the Senate want to expedite the override vote and I understand that. But I’m not going to allow that to happen unless there is a vote, no matter how long that takes, on the $2,000 direct payment,” Sanders said in a Monday night interview.

The democratic socialist from Vermont ultimately cannot prevent the vote to override the veto on the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). He can, however, stall it until January 1, making life harder for Republicans.

Separately, McConnell hinted that in a package he could bundle the $2,000 checks with a repeal of Section 230, which gives social media companies like Twitter and Facebook liability protections. When Trump signed the $2.3 trillion COVID-19 relief package on Sunday, he said the Senate would “start the process for a vote” that deals with the trio of issues.

“During this process, the president highlighted three additional issues of national significance he would like to see Congress tackle together,” McConnell said Tuesday.

“Those are the three important subjects the president has linked together. This week the Senate will begin a process to bring these three priorities into focus,” he added.

You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.

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Swiss Bank Admits to $5.6 Billion Tax Evasion Scheme, Settles for $120 Million



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Banque Pictet, the private banking arm of the Pictet Group based in Switzerland, has admitted to conspiring with U.S. taxpayers to hide billions of dollars from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in over 1,600 secret bank accounts. The Justice Department revealed on Monday that Banque Pictet has agreed to pay over $120 million in restitution to the U.S. Treasury as part of a settlement.

The bank’s involvement in the tax evasion scheme spanned from 2008 through 2014, during which it conspired with American taxpayer clients to conceal more than $5.6 billion of the approximately $20 billion in U.S. assets. This led to an evasion of around $50.6 million in U.S. taxes, according to prosecutors.

Of the $5.6 billion concealed, the funds were distributed across 1,637 accounts, implicating more than 40% of the total 3,736 private accounts owned by U.S. taxpayers held by the bank. Banque Pictet reportedly assisted its American clients in hiding their undeclared accounts through various means, including the formation and administration of offshore entities. Undeclared accounts were then maintained in the names of these entities on behalf of U.S. taxpayer clients.

Jim Lee, Chief of IRS Criminal Investigation, emphasized the importance of the case in sending a strong message to those attempting to hide assets and income offshore. Lee stated, “This case should provide a clear message to others who try to hide their assets and income offshore. Offshore tax evasion is a priority for IRS Criminal Investigation.”

The settlement underscores the ongoing efforts by U.S. authorities to combat tax evasion and sends a clear warning to financial institutions and individuals involved in such illicit activities. As regulatory scrutiny intensifies globally, financial institutions face increasing pressure to ensure compliance with international tax laws and prevent their involvement in tax evasion schemes.

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