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Sen. Marco Rubio campaigning for Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue in Georgia. Photo: Jessica McGowan/Getty Images

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.

The state of play: 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.

Driving the news: "I am concerned about the debt, but working families have been hurt badly by the pandemic," Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) tweeted Monday. "This is why I supported $600 direct payments to working families & if given the chance will vote to increase the amount."

Senators to watch: Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin — with one or two other spending hardliners needed.

  • The House yesterday voted overwhelmingly yesterday— 275-134 — for $2,000 checks, with 44 Republicans joining almost all Democrats.

🥊 A Wall Street Journal editorial (subscription) today calls the president's push for $2,000 checks "a Donald Trump in-kind contribution to Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Joe Biden."

  • If McConnell allows a vote, The Journal argues, it "would split the GOP caucus and upset fiscally conservative voters."

What's next: Senate consideration of $2,000 checks is unlikely to begin before Friday, after Sen. Bernie Sanders threatened to delay an override of Trump's veto of the defense spending bill over McConnell's reluctance.

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Go deeper

Young people want checks on Big Tech's power

Data: Generation Lab; Chart: Sara Wise/Axios

The next generation of college-educated Americans thinks social media companies have too much power and influence on politics and need more government regulation, according to a new survey by Generation Lab for Axios.

Why it matters: The findings follow an election dominated by rampant disinformation about voting fraud on social media; companies' fraught efforts to stifle purveyors of disinformation including former President Trump; and a deadly Jan. 6 insurrection over the election organized largely online.

45 million Americans under winter storm watches near New England

Computer model projection showing the winds moving around the powerful East Coast storm on Saturday Jan. 29, 2022. Image: https://earth.nullschool.net

Nearly 45 million Americans are under winter weather alerts and warnings from North Carolina to northeastern Maine Thursday night, as a major winter storm threatens the region.

Why it matters: It is predicted to be the biggest blizzard since 2018 to strike the Northeast with more than 2 feet of snow possible in parts of eastern Massachusetts, according to the National Weather Service.

Judge nixes Gulf of Mexico oil leases in climate-focused ruling

Tug boats prepare to tow the semi-submersible drilling platform Noble Danny Adkins through the Port Aransas Channel into the Gulf of Mexico on December 12, 2020 in Port Aransas, Texas. Photo: Tom Pennington/Getty Images

A federal judge on Thursday canceled the Biden administration's late 2021 sale of new oil-and-gas drilling leases in the Gulf of Mexico.

Why it matters: The ruling that the greenhouse gas emissions analysis by the Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) was insufficient is a win for green groups that challenged the decision, as they seek to curb fossil fuel production.

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