President Donald Trump’s push for $2,000 COVID-19 relief checks now rests with the Senate after the House voted overwhelmingly to meet the president’s demand to increase the $600 stipends, but Republicans have shown little interest in boosting spending, according to an Associated Press report.
The outcome is highly uncertain heading into today’s (Dec. 29) session. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has declined to publicly address how he plans to handle the issue. But Democrats, sharing a rare priority with Trump, have seized on the opportunity to force Republicans into a difficult vote of either backing or defying the outgoing president.
After bipartisan approval by the House, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer warned, “There is no good reason for Senate Republicans to stand in the way.”
“There’s strong support for these $2,000 emergency checks from every corner of the country,” Schumer said in a statement late Monday. He called on McConnell to make sure the Senate helps “meet the needs of American workers and families who are crying out for help.”
The House tally was a stunning turn of events. Just days ago Republicans blocked Trump’s sudden demands for bigger checks during a brief Christmas Eve session as he defiantly refused to sign the broader COVID-19 aid and year-end funding bill into law.
As Trump spent days fuming from his private club in Florida, where he is spending the holidays, dozens of Republicans calculated it was better to link with Democrats to increase the pandemic stipend rather than buck the outgoing president and constituents counting on the money. Democrats led passage, 275-134, but 44 Republicans joined almost all Democrats in approval.
Senators were set to return to session Tuesday amid similar, stark GOP divisions between those who align with Trump’s populist instincts and others who adhere to what had been more traditionally conservative views against government spending. Congress had settled on smaller $600 payments in a compromise over the big year-end relief bill Trump reluctantly signed into law.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declared, “Republicans have a choice: Vote for this legislation or vote to deny the American people the bigger paychecks they need.”