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Dec 28, 2020
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The House will vote Monday on increasing the second round of federal direct payments to $2,000 as Democrats embrace President Donald Trump’s calls to put more money in Americans’ pockets.

The measure would boost the stimulus checks in the year-end coronavirus relief and government funding package to $2,000 from $600. The vote comes a day after Trump signed the more than $2 trillion pandemic aid and full-year government spending bill into law.

The Democratic-held House will first try to pass the payments in a fast-track procedure that needs two-thirds support, according to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer’s office. If it fails, the chamber will then move to approve it through a longer process that will only require majority support. In that case, it would only need Democratic support to pass.

Last week, the president called the legislation a “disgrace.” He waited days to sign the package after he received it from Congress. Trump claimed he opposed the bill — which his Treasury secretary helped to negotiate and which included many of his White House’s budget priorities — because it included too little direct money to Americans and too much foreign aid.

When asked whether the $600 payments were still on course to go out starting this week as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin previously said, a senior Treasury official said the department expects to make the payments on the same timeline he discussed. If Congress does approve the $2,000 checks, the department will then add to the already issued money.

Trump has pushed for $2,000 payments in recent days. In a statement explaining his decision to sign the legislation Sunday, he noted that the House and potentially the Senate could move to approve larger cash deposits. However, most Republicans in the GOP-held Senate have opposed even a $1,200 check.

Trump’s gambit caps a chaotic eight months of efforts in Washington to send another round of coronavirus relief. Americans waited months for more help after financial lifelines that aided them through the early months of the pandemic expired over the summer. Trump’s delays in signing the year-end bill cost an estimated 14 million jobless Americans a week of unemployment benefits after two key relief programs briefly expired.

The president’s signature prevented a government shutdown that would have started Tuesday. More delays also would have jeopardized a federal eviction moratorium, which the bill extends by a month through Jan. 31.

Democrats have called the relief bill a down payment and plan to push for more aid after President-elect Joe Biden takes office Jan. 20. As they had called for larger direct payments throughout aid talks, they jumped on the president’s support for $2,000 deposits.

On Monday, Biden also told reporters he backs $2,000 payments.

In a statement Sunday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., called on Trump to put more pressure on his party to back the payments during Monday’s vote.

“Every Republican vote against this bill is a vote to deny the financial hardship that families face and to deny the American people the relief they need,” she said.

In his own statement Sunday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said he is “glad the American people will receive this much-needed assistance as our nation continues battling this pandemic.” However, he did not mention any plans for bringing up the $2,000 payment bill if the House passes it.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Sunday that he would try to pass the legislation in the Senate.

“No Democrats will object. Will Senate Republicans?” he tweeted.

House Democrats already tried to pass $2,000 payments by unanimous consent during a pro-forma session on Thursday. However, the vote failed because House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., did not approve it.

Earlier this month, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., twice rejected attempts to unanimously pass $1,200 direct payments in the Senate. Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Josh Hawley, R-Mo., pushed for the checks as part of the relief package.

Schumer’s move to put pressure on Senate Republicans comes as two GOP incumbents — Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler — compete in Jan. 5 runoffs in Georgia that will determine control of the Senate and shape Biden’s agenda. Democrats have made pandemic relief a major issue in the races.

The $900 billion pandemic aid portion of the legislation includes the $600 payments along with a $300 per week federal unemployment insurance supplement into mid-March. It extends programs that allow freelance, gig and self-employed workers to receive benefits and increase the number of weeks people can receive insurance.

The bill puts over $300 billion more into small business support, mostly in the form of forgivable Paycheck Protection Program loans. It creates a $25 billion rental assistance fund.

It includes more than $8 billion for Covid-19 vaccine distribution and $20 billion to make shots free to Americans. It also puts $82 billion into education as schools struggle to reopen, and $45 billion into transportation, which includes airline payroll support.

The relief package does not put money into state and local government relief, which Democrats and many Republicans support as a measure to prevent layoffs. However, GOP leaders have opposed approving the aid without also creating a shield for businesses from coronavirus-related lawsuits.

Democrats plan to push for state and local support and another round of direct payments, among other aid measures, after Biden takes office.
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