The House of Representatives has voted to increase the latest round of Covid-19 stimulus checks from $600 to $2,000. Even though President Donald Trump supports the move, it is unlikely to get far in the Senate.
On Monday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi held a recorded vote on a standalone bill to increase “economic impact payments” — in other words, stimulus checks — to $2,000. House Democrats attempted a vote by unanimous consent on the matter on Christmas Eve, but it was blocked by House Republicans. On Monday, it passed the House by a 275-134 vote.
The $900 billion stimulus package passed by Congress last week and signed into law by President Trump on Sunday has in it stimulus checks for $600 for individuals who made up to $75,000 a year in 2019 or $1,200 for couples who made up to $150,000 as well as an additional $600 per child. Many politicians, activists, and experts have called for that number to be higher — under the CARES Act in the spring, stimulus checks were for $1,200 for individuals.
Negotiators settled on $600, and the general belief was that Trump agreed with whatever Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who called the bill “fabulous,” agreed with. But then after Congress passed the bill and went home, Trump released a video on Twitter slamming it as a “disgrace” and calling for checks to be bumped up to $2,000.
Democrats were quick to act and tried to use the president’s support for bigger checks as leverage to get Republicans in Congress to budge on the issue — or at the very least highlight that they won’t. Pelosi responded to Trump’s tweet saying that Republicans had “repeatedly refused to say what amount” the president wanted for checks and that “at last” he had agreed to $2,000. “Let’s do it!” she wrote.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) echoed Pelosi’s sentiment, noting that she and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) had co-written an amendment for $2,000 checks. The House voted on the CASH Act to increase stimulus payments, which was put forth by House Ways and Means Committee Chair Richard Neal (D-MA) on Christmas Eve.
After the president signed the stimulus bill on Sunday, Pelosi said in a statement that he “must immediately call on Congressional Republicans to end their obstruction and to join him and Democrats in support of our stand-alone legislation to increase direct payment checks to $2,000,” to be brought to the floor on Monday. “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.
Monday’s House vote was conducted under a “suspension of rules,” which required a two-thirds majority for it to pass.
The big question after the vote on $2,000 stimulus checks passed the House on Monday is what happens next. And the answer is probably not much.
Many Republicans have never been into the idea of bigger stimulus checks — Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) tried to advocate for $1,200 checks alongside Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and was blocked by a member of his own party. As Vox’s Li Zhou explained, Republicans have chafed at a bigger relief bill because of concerns about the deficit, and one bipartisan proposal in the lead-up to the final deal didn’t have checks in it at all.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said on Twitter that he will move to pass $2,000 checks in the Senate and that no Democrats will object. “Will Senate Republicans?” he asked. The answer is almost surely yes.
When asked by reporters whether $2,000 checks would get 60 votes in the Senate, Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) said they would not. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has not weighed in on the matter. His office did not respond to a request for comment on how he’s thinking about the issue, but he is unlikely to support it. In a statement commending Trump for signing the $900 billion relief bill on Sunday, he didn’t acknowledge the measure at all.
The president has complicated the matter further by tacking onto his $2,000 ask some unrelated items. In a statement after signing the stimulus package, Trump said he wants the Senate to “start the process” for a vote on increasing checks, repealing Section 230 — an internet speech law — and commencing an investigation into (unfounded) claims of voter fraud. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has been calling for the Senate to increase checks at the same time it scraps Section 230 as well.
One thing does not have to do with the other — getting people much-needed help in a time of crisis and whether Twitter can slap a label onto the president’s false tweets are two different things.
Despite the House’s vote on Monday, it remains unlikely that $2,000 checks are on the way.