Top Dem unveils bill to increase COVID stimulus checks to $2,000 after Trump demand

Bill faces a difficult passage in the GOP-controlled Senate

Rep. Richard Neal unveiled legislation on Thursday to increase the size of the stimulus check in the $900 billion coronavirus relief bill to $2,000 after President Trump threatened to torpedo the aid package.

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Neal, D-Mass., introduced the Caring for Americans with Supplemental Help Act -- the CASH Act -- shortly after House Republicans blocked a last-minute effort by Democrats to more than triple the size of the cash payments for individuals in the stimulus bill that Congress overwhelmingly passed Monday night.

"Now that the President has finally endorsed that idea as well, we’re ready to immediately pass the CASH Act to put an additional $2,000 into the pockets of folks in need," Neal, the chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, said in a statement. "Congressional Republicans must join us in this effort and not block critical relief from reaching families who are hurting.”

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House Democrats will vote on the legislation on Monday, but it faces a tough passage in the Republican-controlled Senate. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., told Politico on Thursday that he doesn't think the Senate would bring up a bill to increase the payments to $2,000 -- and if it did, the measure would not pass.

Blunt, a close ally of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, said Republicans were "assured" that Trump would sign the package after the president, in a surprise video Tuesday night, demanded that lawmakers increase the size of the stimulus check included in the aid package from $600 to $2,000. He also listed a bevy of other complaints about the $2.3 trillion legislation, which included $1.4 trillion in government funding.

Trump, who was largely absent from stimulus negotiations, did not explicitly say whether he would veto the measure or refuse to sign it, but said that if Congress did not send him revised legislation, "the next administration will have to deliver a COVID relief package."

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Because it takes so long for Congress to formally send the president a bill of that size  5,593 pages  the legislation has still not reached his desk. That could give Trump the opportunity to kill the relief package through a "pocket veto." Presidents have a 10-day window (Sundays excluded) to sign or veto a bill; but Trump could let that time expire without doing either, running out the clock until the new session of Congress begins on Jan. 3, 2021.

In addition to sending up to $600 checks for Americans earning less than $87,000, the stimulus measure would provide temporary relief by extending boosted unemployment benefits by $300 a week through mid-March, reopening the Paycheck Protection Program and providing more funding for vaccine distribution.

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Any delay on the bill's passage could plunge millions of Americans into financial crisis: Up to 12 million laid-off workers could lose their unemployment benefits the day after Christmas, a moratorium on evictions will expire at the end of the month and billions of dollars in aid for vaccine distribution, education and health care would be put on hold.

If Trump vetoes the bill, Congress could override it after Christmas since the measure passed both chambers with solid majorities. Lawmakers are already planning to reconvene after Trump vetoed the National Defense Authorization Act on Wednesday. Pelosi said Wednesday that the House would return on Dec. 28 to vote on overriding the veto.