The House on Monday passed legislation tripling the size of the direct payments offered under the $900 billion COVID relief bill from $600 to $2,000 after President Trump voiced his desire for the increase, sending the bill to the GOP-controlled Senate with its fate remaining uncertain.
The bill passed in a 275-134 vote, with 44 Republicans joining the vast majority of Democrats on approving the bill. The measure narrowly reached the two-thirds majority needed for the expedited procedure used to pass.
Monday’s bill in the House, dubbed the Caring for Americans with Supplemental Help (CASH) Act, would increase the size of payments for both eligible adults and children from the initial proposal of $600 to $2,000. Individuals with income of up to $75,000 and married couples with income up to $150,000 would be eligible for the full amount.
The bill would also allow adult dependents, such as college students, disabled adults, and elderly relatives, to be eligible for both $2,000 payments and the $500 payments authorized by the CARES Act in March.
Two Democrats broke ranks with their party on Monday night as the House voted in favor of $2,000 stimulus checks,
Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-OR) and the outgoing Congressman Daniel Lipinski (D-IL) voted with Republicans as the House split 275-134 on the proposal to increase the size of the much-anticipated second round of stimulus checks.
The Democratic lawmakers called the $2,000 increase “ineffective,” adding that while he was not in favor of austerity measures, he wanted lawmakers to consider “what debt we are passing onto future generations” when passing legislation.
The measure now faces an uphill battle in the GOP-controlled Senate, with the Georgia Senate twin runoff just a week away. Leading Republican lawmakers have expressed their opposition to larger direct payments, with some saying they do not support any stimulus checks at all. Others have expressed concerns about its impact on the deficit, while a few argued that the checks would not be well-targeted.
However, the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Budget estimates that the bigger payments would raise disposable income in the first quarter to as much as 25% above pre-pandemic levels. The legislation would produce an additional 1.5% in GDP output.
The vote on the measure came after Trump last week railed against the omnibus portion of the legislation, criticizing the bill as a “disgrace,” and slammed the low stimulus relief amount, calling for Congress to amend the measure by increasing to $2,000, prompting Democrats to seize on the president’s demands.
“The $900 billion package provides hardworking taxpayers with only $600 each in relief payments and not enough money is given to small businesses,” Trump says in the video posted last Tuesday. “I am asking Congress to amend this bill and increase the ridiculously low $600 to $2,000 or $4,000 for a couple.”
Following Trump’s comments, a number of prominent Democratic lawmakers quickly backed the president’s demand.
“Republicans repeatedly refused to say what amount the President wanted for direct checks. At last, the President has agreed to $2,000 — Democrats are ready to bring this to the Floor this week by unanimous consent. Let’s do it!” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) wrote in a tweet.
Democrats attempted to push a standalone bill to pass the measure by unanimous consent during a rare Christmas Eve session, but the attempts failed after House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) voiced disapproval for the legislation. This prompted Pelosi to hold a tallied vote that she scheduled ahead of the House override vote of Trump’s veto of the defense bill.
After the tally, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said he would move to pass the legislation in the Senate on Tuesday, adding that there was “no good reason” for Senate Republicans to block the higher payments.
Following the strong bipartisan vote in the House, tomorrow I will move to pass the legislation in the Senate to quickly deliver Americans with $2,000 emergency checks,” Schumer said in a statement following the House vote. “Every Senate Democrat is for this much-needed increase in emergency financial relief, which can be approved tomorrow if no Republican blocks it — there is no good reason for Senate Republicans to stand in the way.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) threatened to delay a crucial vote to override Trump’s veto on a defense funding bill unless the Senate holds a vote on $2,000 checks.
“This week on the Senate floor Mitch McConnell wants to vote to override Trump’s veto of the $740 billion defense funding bill and then head home for the New Year. I’m going to object until we get a vote on legislation to provide a $2,000 direct payment to the working class,” Sanders tweeted.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) voiced support for the increased stimulus checks, diverging from some of his Republican Senate colleagues who resisted raising the $600 amount.
“Congress should quickly pass legislation to increase direct payments to Americans to $2,000,” Rubio said in a statement. “I agree with the President that millions of working-class families are in dire need of additional relief, which is why I support $2,000 in direct payments to Americans struggling due to the pandemic. For months, Republicans tried to pass additional relief for workers, families, and small businesses—only to be rejected by Democrats at every turn.”
Trump in a series of tweets early Tuesday, again demanded that the stimulus payments should be scaled up by the Senate.
“Give the people $2000, not $600. They have suffered enough!” Trump tweeted.
Give the people $2000, not $600. They have suffered enough! https://t.co/2jOVCnGtXS— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 29, 2020
“$2000 for our great people, not $600! They have suffered enough from the China Virus!!!” Trump tweeted in a follow-up tweet.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is expected to speak about the issue when he opens the Senate for debate Tuesday afternoon. The Senate would likely need unanimous consent to be able to vote on both a defense bill veto override and the $2,000 checks legislation before this session of Congress expires on Sunday.