House votes to increase COVID-19 checks to $2,000


The House on Monday approved an increase in stimulus checks to $2,000 for most Americans as President Trump had requested, over the objections of 130 House Republicans who voted against the president.

But the measure faces long odds in the Senate, where it threatens Republicans’ hold on their majority ahead of key elections in Georgia next week.

On a bipartisan vote of 275 to 134, House lawmakers agreed to increase the payments from $600 in the current coronavirus relief package, which Mr. Trump signed on Sunday night.

Among the Republicans who voted against Mr. Trump’s request for the bigger stimulus checks were House Minority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana and Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio and Andy Biggs of Arizona, close allies of the White House.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi challenged GOP lawmakers to vote with their president, instead of voting to “deny the American people a bigger paycheck.”

“We are a consumer economy. Putting money into the hands of the American people is a boost to the economy,” she said.

President-elect Joseph R. Biden also said on Monday that he supports increasing the payments to $2,000.

Hiking the stimulus payments would cost an estimated $464 billion, the official scorekeeper of Congress said Monday. That’s on top of the $164 billion that the Joint Committee on Taxation estimates that the $600 payments will cost.

Opponents said the checks aren’t targeted to help the people who need it most.

“Nothing in this bill helps anyone get back to work,” said Rep. Kevin Brady, Texas Republican. “Not a dime for small businesses, not a dime for Main Street. The best way to help struggling families is to get them back to work.”

In signing the $900 billion relief package that includes extended unemployment benefits, the president complained that the $600 stimulus checks were “measly.” He called on lawmakers to raise the amount, a development that Democrats were only too happy to take up.

But the move creates problems for Senate Republicans, some of whom resisted lower stimulus checks and have raised concerns about increasing the debt. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, has not indicated whether he will bring the new measure up for a vote.

The question threatens to divide the Senate GOP just as Georgia’s two Republican senators, Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, are facing runoff elections on Jan. 5. Ms. Loeffler has said she would support the increased stimulus checks if the money is offset by spending cuts. Mr. Perdue hasn’t voiced support for the larger payments.

Their Democratic opponents, Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, support the higher payments.

Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida Republican, said on Monday that he, too, supports increasing the checks to $2,000. He said millions of families “are still in dire need of relief.”

Senate Republicans previously rejected a move to increase the stimulus checks to $1,200. Sen. Roy Blunt, Missouri Republican, said he would be “surprised” if the Senate took up the new measure.

Sen. Pat Toomey, Pennsylvania Republican, said Sunday that many Republicans don’t like the payments because the aid isn’t targeted to people who need it most.

But Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York said he’ll bring it up in the Senate.

“No Democrats will object,” Mr. Schumer tweeted. “Will Senate Republicans?”

All 100 senators would need to agree to hold an expedited vote on the bill as early as Tuesday. Otherwise, the earliest the Senate could vote on the question would be on New Year’s Eve.

The larger coronavirus relief bill that included the $600 checks passed the House on Dec. 21 by a vote of 359 to 53, with 50 Republicans voting “no.” Monday’s vote was held under rules requiring a two-thirds majority.

Only two Republicans spoke out on the House floor against the higher stimulus checks. Rep. Glenn Grothman, Wisconsin Republican, said having the Federal Reserve print more money won’t help the economy.

“We should not think the way to prosperity is just printing money,” he said. Mr. Grothman called on Mr. McConnell “to hold the line” against the new spending.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, Massachusetts Democrat, countered that the larger stimulus checks are not a path to prosperity. He said 20 million Americans are out of work.

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, Texas Democrat, called the larger checks “a survival cash payment” for Americans.

“They can’t pay their rent, they can’t buy food,” she said.

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