Sen. Marco Rubio urged President-elect Joe Biden to immediately push for $2,000 stimulus checks for Americans still reeling from the coronavirus pandemic as a way to unify the nation after last week's deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
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"It would send a powerful message to the American people if, on the first day of your presidency, you called on the House and Senate to send you legislation to increase the direct economic impact payments to Americans struggling due to the pandemic from $600 to $2,000," the Florida Republican wrote in a letter to Biden dated Tuesday.
Biden and Rubio both supported increasing the direct cash payments included in the $900 billion relief package passed at the end of December, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., blocked a last-minute effort to increase the checks from $600 to $2,000.
The incoming president has not yet unveiled his full proposal for the next coronavirus relief package, but is expected to do so Thursday. The proposal, which Biden said cost upward of $1 trillion, is expected to include a provision increasing the stimulus payments to $2,000. Other Democratic priorities, laid out in a letter to colleagues from soon-to-be Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., are money for vaccine distribution, small businesses, schools and state and local governments.
"You have the ability to help break the paralysis in Washington by delivering desperately needed relief," Rubio said. "I implore you to rise above the rhetoric and deliver an increase in assistance for American families."
Democrats will control the Senate by the thinnest of margins after twin victories by Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock in the Georgia runoff elections last week clinched the party a 50-50 split in the upper chamber, with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris able to cast a tie-breaking vote.
Their closing arguments in Georgia centered on sending $2,000 stimulus checks to Americans still reeling from the coronavirus pandemic, a popular issue championed by both Democrats and President Trump.
"If you send Jon and the Reverend to Washington, those $2,000 checks will go out the door," Biden said on the eve of the special elections. "And if you send Sens. Perdue and Loeffler back to Washington, those checks will never get there. It's just that simple. The power is literally in your hands."
The federal government has already sent a majority of American households two direct cash payments: The first, worth up to $1,200 for individuals, went out in April, and the second, worth up to $600 for individuals, will be delivered by Jan. 15.
But the economy has shown signs that it's starting to deteriorate amid a nationwide surge in COVID-19 cases: In December, employers shed 140,000 jobs, marking the first loss since the early days of the pandemic.
In total, the U.S. has recovered roughly half of the 22 million jobs lost during the first two months of the pandemic. There are still about 9.8 million more Americans out of work than there were in February before the crisis began.