After President Donald Trump reluctantly signed the coronavirus relief legislation Sunday night, House Democrats still moved ahead Monday with passing new legislation to increase stimulus checks to $2,000 for most Americans, putting Republicans on the record as opposing the increase in direct payments.
The House passed the stimulus check legislation 275-134, with 130 Republicans, two Democrats and two independents voting no, and 231 Democrats and 44 Republicans voting yes.
The bill put Republicans in an awkward bind: Go against a president who they’ve been so reluctant to cross or go against their party’s leadership and side with Democrats.
Trump has shown that he wants more than the current $600 payments that individuals who earn less than $75,000 a year will receive under the measure that became law Sunday night. But his messaging has been inconsistent, and he’s shown that he’s prone to changing his mind quickly.
The bill that passed the House on Monday would substitute the $600 checks that are scheduled go out shortly for $2,000 checks for individuals or $4,000 for couples making less than $150,000.
Though most Republicans opposed the legislation Monday night, most also didn’t have much to say in opposition to the bill. At one point, the Democrat leading the floor debate, Ways and Means chair Richard Neal (D-Mass.) ― noted that he was disappointed more Republicans hadn’t come to the floor to speak on the record.
Of the Republicans who did speak, most argued that the aid wasn’t targeted enough.
“For me, I worry that this whopping $463 billion won’t do what’s needed: Stimulate the economy or get the jobless back to work,” Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas), the ranking Republican on the Ways and Means Committee, said at the outset of debate Monday night.
Brady said the money would go toward paying credit card companies or making “new purchases online at Walmart, Best Buy or Amazon.”
Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.) said he opposed the legislation because “the small shopkeeper who’s lost their entire savings because of the lockdowns will get the same $2,000 grant as the government bureaucrat who’s been enjoying a steady paycheck at home for the past 10 months.”
McClintock didn’t note the hundreds of billions of dollars Congress has appropriated for small businesses in multiple rounds of legislation, nor did he note that 46% of lower-income adults have said they’ve had trouble paying their bills since the coronavirus pandemic started, nor the 25% of U.S. adults who said they or someone in their household had lost their job during the deadly COVID-19 outbreak.
Another thing Republicans avoided discussing: the president.
Although Trump signed the coronavirus relief legislation that authorized the $600 checks on Sunday night, he was clear he still supported increasing the one-time direct payments to $2,000 and that he had commitments from Senate GOP leaders to “start the process for a vote” on that proposal.
In Senate-speak, that may not mean much, pointing to how little Trump actually got in exchange for his signature. But it will likely put Senate Republicans on the record in some fashion, perhaps on a procedural vote for the $2,000 relief checks at some point.
Either way, the vote in the House on Monday put Republicans on the record. And it brings the legislation one step closer to actually becoming law. But it’s unlikely that Senate Republicans will actually go along with the gambit, even though Trump is pushing for increased stimulus payments.
As House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said, Trump has been clear that this is something he wants to see enacted. “I hope that that view will be shared by Republicans in the Senate,” she said.
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