Congressional Republicans on Thursday rejected Democrats’ initial attempt to bump up direct relief checks to $2,000 in response to President Donald Trump’s demands.
In less than a minute on the House floor, Rep. Rob Wittman (R-VA) rejected the unanimous consent request, HuffPost reported.
The move wasn’t a surprise — Republicans only begrudgingly accepted that the COVID-19 stimulus package would include $600 direct checks because of the crucial runoff elections in Georgia — but it underlined the turmoil into which Trump has thrown Congress.
“Today, on Christmas Eve morning, House Republicans cruelly deprived the American people of the $2,000 that the President agreed to support,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA.) said in a statement. “If the President is serious about the $2,000 direct payments, he must call on House Republicans to end their obstruction.”
“To vote against this bill is to deny the financial hardship that families face and to deny them the relief they need,” Pelosi added.
The consequences of inaction are severe: Federal supplemental jobless benefits for Americans, $300 per week, is set to expire on Saturday. The compromise stimulus bill would extend them through mid-March, on top of additional money for businesses, the direct checks to individuals, an extension of the federal eviction moratorium, and billions for food assistance, vaccine distribution and other measures.
Some Republicans openly voiced their frustration at the President’s last-minute demands for more money.
“Why didn’t the president say this before?” outgoing Rep. Peter King (R-NY) said in a radio interview Wednesday. “Why did his administration say it had to be $600? They were the ones driving this.”
In Georgia on Wednesday, runoff candidate and megamillionaire Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) squirmed, declining to commit to supporting more relief money for Americans.
Democrats on Thursday also blocked a Republican unanimous consent request, that to reexamine some of the foreign aid money Trump targeted in his after-the-fact speech panning the stimulus bill. The figures Trump cited would equate to an extra $14 on Americans’ stimulus checks, the American Prospect calculated.
As Trump left Washington Wednesday, White House aides received “an avalanche of angry messages from GOP lawmakers and consultants,” the Washington post reported.
A private conference call with House Republicans, quotes from which were leaked to various reporters, showed the bitter mood.
“This bill has been tainted,” McCarthy acknowledged on the call, per The New York Times.
“I don’t know if we recover from this,” Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) said separately, per the Times. “We will have a hell of a time getting this out of people’s head.”
Rep. Don Bacon (R-NE), who according to several reports said on the call that Trump had thrown Republicans under the bus, said afterward that the White House “was updated on this bill every step of the way by GOP Leadership. The COVID Supplemental is a good compromise and the President should take it.”