The Democratic-controlled House narrowly passed a bill Monday evening to increase direct coronavirus relief payments to some people to $2,000, although the measure faces an uphill battle in the Republican-run Senate despite support from President Donald Trump.
The legislation would increase the $600 in direct payments to those who earned less than $75,000 last year to $2,000. Because the bill was brought up using an expedited procedure, it required a two-thirds majority to pass. It passed 275 to 134, just two votes more than the 273 needed.
Trump insisted on increasing the payments after his administration struck a deal for the $600 checks as part of a coronavirus relief and government spending package, which passed both chambers of Congress last week and which his administration helped to negotiate.
"I simply want to get our great people $2,000, rather than the measly $600 that is now in the bill," Trump tweeted over the weekend from his Florida resort.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., applauded the vote Monday, saying: "The House and the president are in agreement: We must deliver $2,000 checks to American families struggling this Holiday Season. The House just passed the #CASHAct — it’s time for the Senate to do the same."
Trump cited the scheduled House vote in a statement Sunday announcing that he had finally signed the $2.3 trillion Covid-19 relief and government funding package.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said he would try to pass the bill Tuesday by unanimous consent — a procedure that would allow it to advance only if there are no objections.
"Every Senate Democrat is for it, but unfortunately, we don't have the Republicans on board," Schumer told reporters ahead of Monday's vote before urging Trump to change the dynamic.
"These Senate Republicans have followed you through thick and thin. Get them now to act and to support the $2,000 checks," Schumer said.
The $600 payments are still expected to be made as early as the end of this week despite Trump's delay, a senior Treasury Department official said. Checks might clear the following Monday, because of the federal and bank holiday on Friday.
If the Senate also greenlights the $2,000 stimulus checks, Americans who have already received the original $600 will get a second payment of $1,400 to bring them to $2,000.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., praised Trump for signing the bill Sunday night but made no mention of a possible vote on the additional relief in his statement.
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Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri, chairman of the Senate Republican Policy Committee, told reporters last week that even if the measure came up for a vote in the Senate, it would not reach the 60-vote threshold needed to pass.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., later Monday threatened to delay a separate vote this week to override Trump's veto of the annual defense authorization bill if McConnell doesn't take action on the new relief bill.
"Let me be clear: If Senator McConnell doesn’t agree to an up or down vote to provide the working people of our country a $2,000 direct payment, Congress will not be going home for New Year’s Eve," Sanders said in a statement. "Let’s do our job."
At least one Senate Republican, Marco Rubio of Florida, has indicated that he would support the additional payments.
"I share many of my colleagues' concern about the long-term effects of additional spending, but we cannot ignore the fact that millions of working-class families across the nation are still in dire need of relief," Rubio said in a statement Monday.