PHOTO CREDITS: ASSOCIATED PRESS
House Republicans shot down President Trump’s bid for $2,000 direct payments to Americans before signing a COVID-19 relief bill.
Democrats offered the bill after President Trump raised objections to the $2.3 trillion COVID-19 relief and omnibus spending package approved by Congress on Monday. Trump explicitly stated that the $600 direct payments to Americans included in the bill were too small, calling for the checks to be increased to $2,000. The president’s push to increase direct payments for most Americans from $600 to $2,000 for individuals and $4,000 for couples split the party with a politically painful loyalty test. Democrats seized on the president’s words to try to put Republicans in a difficult spot, arguing they also preferred the higher payments (ABC).
Rep. Steny Hoyer, the No. 2 House Democrat, sought the unanimous approval of all House members to pass the bill, but GOP leader Kevin McCarthy, who was not present in the nearly-empty chamber, denied his approval and the effort fizzled. A number of Republicans in Congress oppose direct payments of $2,000, saying they’re concerned about the impact on the deficit. Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va.) sought to bring up a competing measure to revisit the portion of the appropriations legislation that relates to foreign aid. Trump also criticized those provisions, which were included after a negotiation with Republicans and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who signed off on the deal.
Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.), who was presiding over the House, shot down the floor requests from Hoyer and Wittman, a move that was expected. She said that under House guidelines, legislation can’t be considered by unanimous consent unless there is bipartisan approval from House floor and committee leadership.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said the House would hold a recorded vote on Monday for legislation that would increase the size of the checks in the relief package to $2,000. “To vote against this bill is to deny the financial hardship that families face and to deny them the relief they need,” she said in a statement. “Hopefully by then the President will have already signed the bipartisan and bicameral legislation to keep the government open and to deliver coronavirus relief.” Trump has not explicitly said he would veto the year-end legislation, and it’s unclear how he will ultimately proceed. He could still sign the bill, despite his misgivings.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) formally announced to his members on Wednesday evening the counter unanimous consent request in a “Dear Colleague” letter, attempting to cast blame on Democrats for the chaos on the spending bill despite the president’s criticisms and the foreign aid being in his budget request. “House Democrats appear to be suffering from selective hearing. They have conveniently ignored the concerns expressed by the President, and shared by our constituents, that we ought to reexamine how our tax dollars are spent overseas while so many of our neighbors at home are struggling to make ends meet,” McCarthy wrote in a letter to colleagues.
“Thus, Republicans will offer a unanimous consent request to revisit the State and Foreign Operations title of the Omnibus so that we can fully address the concerns at hand. It will be up to Speaker Pelosi to decide if she wants to act on behalf of the American people,” he added. McCarthy told members on a call Wednesday afternoon that he had spoken to Trump and that it was unclear whether he will ultimately sign the $2.3 trillion package (The Hill).
Trump did not specifically vow to use his veto power, and there may be enough support in Congress to override him if he does. The final text of the more than 5,000-page bill was still being prepared by Congress and was not expected to be sent to the White House for Trump’s signature before Thursday or Friday, an aide said. Democrats are considering another stopgap measure to at least keep government running until Biden is sworn into office Jan. 20, according to two aides granted anonymity to discuss the private talks.
The push for bigger payments to Americans drew rare common cause between Trump and some of the most liberal members of Congress. Pelosi is set to offer the president’s proposal Thursday under a procedure that allows just one lawmaker to object to its consideration. It will be pushed forward during a so-called pro forma session, with few lawmakers expected to attend. McCarthy and Republicans are poised to object. The Senate cleared the huge relief package by a 92-6 vote after the House approved it by 359-53. Those votes totals would be enough to override a veto should Trump decide to take that step (MSN).
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