Republicans refused to support a unanimous consent vote that would’ve passed a proposal for $2,000 stimulus checks to the Senate.
Congress’s last-ditch attempt to give Americans financial relief before the holidays is yet again in danger of falling apart.
The coronavirus-related relief bill would provide $900 billion in funds, spread between individuals, states, and a variety of federal programs. The legislation, says CNN, would extend two pandemic unemployment programs will offering recipients an extra $300 per week in federal benefits through mid-March. It would also send many Americans a one-time $600 check.
While the stimulus cleared both chambers of Congress by a wide margin—resisted only by a small handful of Republicans—its future is now in doubt.
Earlier this week, President Donald Trump took to Twitter and the White House garden to signal his displeasure with the coronavirus relief belief along with the provisions of a government funding package. Trump criticized, among other things, hundreds of millions of dollars in aids earmarked for foreign assistance.
More importantly, however, President Trump publicly called the one-time $600 checks inadequate.
“I am asking Congress to amend this bill and increase the ridiculously low $600 to $2,000, or $4,000 for a couple,” Trump said in a video posted to his Twitter feed on Tuesday.
The commander-in-chief’s unexpected resistance to the stimulus garnered widespread support from several of Trump’s most prominent critics, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and progressive Bronx Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), all of whom are considered veritable boogeymen by the right.
“Democrats are ready to bring this to the Floor this week by unanimous consent,” Pelosi wrote on Twitter. “Let’s do it!”
Similarly, Rep. Ocasio-Cortez said that she and other House progressives had already penned the President’s suggested amendment.
“Let’s do it. @RashidaTlaib and I already co-wrote the COVID amendment for $2,000 checks, and it’s ready to go,” Ocasio-Cortez wrote on Twitter. “Glad to see the President is willing to support our legislation.”
Others, including prominent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and several Republicans, said they would support President Trump’s drive for $2,000 checks.
However, Pelosi’s push for an amendment by unanimous consent was quickly killed off by a conservative representatives, who refused to back one-time payments of $2,000; Pelosi has proposed bringing the amendment for a regular vote on Monday the 28th.
One way or another, President Trump’s apparent willingness to buck the stimulus talks pose a massive political problem for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).
McConnell—who refused to hold any stimulus for months—only reluctantly agreed to bring the current package to a vote. With Georgia’s upcoming run-off elections likely to determine which party gains or retains control of the Senate, McConnell’s prospective refusal to entertain higher stimulus checks endorsed by Democrats and none other than President Trump himself may alienate voters.
Nevertheless, some “moderate” Democrats—including House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-MD)—have said the stimulus’s potential failure cannot and should not be attributed to anyone other than President Trump.
“Perhaps the only mistake,” Hoyer told the New York Times, “was believing the president and [Treasury] Secretary Mnuchin when we were told that the bill to be passed would be signed by the President of the United States.”
Although President Trump has not pledged to veto the bill, he has remained silent on the stimulus’s future since Tuesday.