US President asks Congress to raise Covid check amount to $2,000, but House Republicans do not arrive at a consensus, effectively rejecting the proposal for the increase.
WASHINGTON: On Thursday, Republicans in the House of Representatives effectively rejected the President’s call, and the Democrats’ acceptance, of an increase in stimulus checks per family.
US President Donald Trump had asked Congress to amend the Covid-19 stimulus package. One of his demands is that Congress raises the stimulus checks from $600 to $2,000. In a White House address, Trump said: “The bill they’re now planning to send back to my desk is much different than anticipated. It really is a disgrace” (sic). The $600 check is intended as a relief from a pandemic-driven financial crisis for adults making up to $75,000 per year and children, with $2,400 for a family of four.
“It’s called the Covid relief bill, but it has almost nothing to do with Covid. This bill contains $85.5 million assistance to Cambodia, $134 million to Burma, $1.3 billion for Egypt and the Egyptian military, which will go out and buy almost exclusively Russian military equipment; $25 million for democracy and gender programs in Pakistan.”
Speaker Nancy Pelosi had seemed to concur in her Tweet on Wednesday: “Republicans repeatedly refused to say what amount the President wanted for direct checks. At last, the President has agreed to $2,000 — Democrats are ready to bring this to the Floor this week by unanimous consent. Let’s do it!”
Interestingly, in an internal letter to Democrats, Pelosi had reportedly mentioned that Republicans would be unwilling to accept a check above $600. This would be the kind of Washington politics we have grown to witness, but now, the House Democrats plan a dare and will to try to pass the bill by unanimous consent—in which only one Republican member opposing the proposal needs to be present in order to block the bill.
That dare did not work, since the House could not reach unanimity.
In his video, the President had said that the bill offers millions of dollars in assistance to centers of art such as the Smithsonian, which are “not open.” While he was selective with the facts, he pointed to what seemed to be his main grouse with the bill: “In spite of all this wasteful spending and much more, the $900 billion relief package provides hardworking taxpayers with only $600 each in relief aid. And not enough money is given to small businesses, and in particular restaurants, whose owners have suffered grievously [but have been] given only a deduction for others to use in business their restaurants for two years. This two-year period must be withdrawn.”
On Monday, the House of Representatives passed the bill 359-53, while the Senate, late Monday night, gave a quick 91-7 thumbs-up to the HR 1520 bill, a $900-billion Covid-19 relief package as part of a $2.3 trillion government spending and economic relief bill. The bill then went to the President for the final signoff, and on Tuesday, he sought amendments including removal of what he termed “wasteful and unnecessary” items.
The bill, of a record 5,593 pages, would now provide direct payments and jobless aid to struggling Americans and funds for small businesses, hospitals, schools, and vaccine distribution. The $1.4 trillion government spending portion will be used to fund federal agencies through fiscal 2021.
Trump’s address may be viewed here.
Lead image courtesy: Gerd Altmann