House Republicans on Thursday blocked a last-minute attempt by Democrats to pass a bill increasing the size of the stimulus checks included in the $900 billion coronavirus relief package from $600 to $2,000 per adult.
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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., planned to use unanimous consent to swiftly approve larger cash payments for individuals in the stimulus bill that Congress passed Monday night after President Trump pushed lawmakers to more than triple the size of the checks.
Under House rules, a measure can pass by unanimous consent so long as no one member objects.
Ways and Means Committee Chair Richard Neal, D-Mass., introduced legislation – the Cash Act – shortly after the unanimous consent vote to increase the stimulus check size to $2,000 that will be put on the floor Monday.
Trump's demands for bigger checks came in a surprise video address Tuesday night alongside a slew of other complaints about the $2.3 trillion package, which included $1.4 trillion in government funding. The president, 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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., told members during a call on Wednesday that he had spoken to the president and that he had not yet committed to a veto of the bill, according to The New York Times.
Some GOP lawmakers signaled a willingness to work with Democrats to give the president what he wanted. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said he does "appreciate" Pelosi's willingness to support Trump's "idea to increase direct payments."
"The American people are hurting and deserve relief," Graham said. "I know there is much bipartisan support for this idea. Let’s go further."
Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., who led a push with Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., to include $1,200 payments in the legislation, also applauded Trump's comments in the video and renewed his push for a bigger stimulus check.
"@realDonaldTrump is right – workers deserve much more than $600, as I have repeatedly said & fought for," he wrote. "And there’s obviously plenty of $$ to do it – look at what Congress threw away on corporate giveaways & foreign buyouts. Let’s get it done."