House GOP Blocks $2,000 Relief Checks Sought by Trump, Leaving Covid Bill in Limbo
In a final bit of pre-Christmas political theater, House Republicans on Thursday blocked an attempt by Democrats to approve the $2,000 stimulus payments President Trump demanded this week.
After Trump on Tuesday abruptly cast doubt over a compromise Covid relief package negotiated by Congress, including $600 payments for millions of Americans, Democrats tried to advance legislation to more than triple those payments. But Republicans rejected the move to pass the change by unanimous consent.
They countered with their own attempt to force changes to foreign aid spending, another part of the year-end package that Trump had criticized even though many of the programs he highlighted were also in his own budget request. That GOP move was blocked by Democrats. House rules meant that each unanimous consent request could not be considered without the approval of the floor and committee leaderships of the other party.
The spending Trump had highlighted as “wasteful and unnecessary” reportedly amounts to $3.8 billion, while raising the direct payments from $600 to $2,000 would cost about $370 billion.
“The Democratic gambit on the House floor was never meant to pass, but Democratic leaders had hoped to put Republicans in a bind — forcing them to choose between the president’s wishes for far more largess and their own inclinations for modest relief — while possibly flushing the president out on his intentions,” The New York Times reports. The show was all over in less than two minutes, and the House then adjourned until Monday.
Pelosi sets new vote for Monday: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said Democrats will try to pass the $2,000 payments again on Monday with a new stand-alone bill that will be put to a full vote on the House floor. “Hopefully by then the President will have already signed the bipartisan and bicameral legislation to keep government open and to deliver coronavirus relief,” she said in a statement.
Relief bill iIn limbo: It’s not at all clear what Trump will do on the $900 billion Covid relief package and a related $1.4 trillion spending bill needed to keep the government open beyond the beginning of next week. “Mr. Trump decamped for his Florida home in Mar-a-Lago on Wednesday without saying another word on the matter,” The Times notes, “leaving both parties to guess whether he really intends to veto the long-delayed measure, which includes the coronavirus relief as well as funding to keep the government funded past Monday.”
The legislation is reportedly being sent to Florida, where Trump was seen golfing on Thursday.
Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) told reporters that there wouldn’t be enough votes in the Senate to pass the $2,000 payments and urged Trump to approve the deal passed by Congress. “I hope the president looks at this again and reaches that conclusion that the best thing to do is to sign the bill,” he said. Blunt also said that reopening the spending bill to reconsider the foreign aid provisions would be a mistake, indicating a potential split within the Republican Party on the issue.
If Trump doesn’t sign off on the legislation, the House could still attempt to pass another stopgap funding measure on Monday to prevent a partial shutdown. But that wouldn’t provide any relief to the roughly 12 million Americans who are set to see their expanded federal unemployment benefits end on Saturday. Other relief provisions provided as part of the $2.2 trillion CARES Act passed in March — including an eviction moratorium reportedly protecting as many as 30 million Americans — are scheduled to expire at the end of the month.
“Republicans in Congress and the White House can’t agree on what they want,” Hoyer told reporters Thursday, according to Bloomberg News. “Surely, the president of the United States, whether he is in Mar-a-Lago or someplace else, ought to empathize with the suffering and apprehension and deep angst people are feeling this Christmas Eve.”