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Pelosi says House to vote on bigger stimulus payments after GOP blocks increase

Her announcement came moments after House Republicans blocked an effort to increase the payments to $2,000 a person.
Image: U.S. Capitol Senate Voting on Coronavirus package in Washington
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., walks from the Senate floor as both chambers of Congress worked to pass the Covid-19 package in a marathon session on Capitol Hill on Monday.Ken Cedeno / Reuters

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that House Democrats would vote Monday on a standalone bill that would provide direct payments to Americans of $2,000 a person.

Pelosi, D-Calif., made the announcement moments after House Republicans blocked a Democratic bid to increase the payments as passed in the stimulus bill earlier this week from $600 a person to $2,000.

"On Monday, I will bring the House back to session, where we will hold a recorded vote on our stand-alone bill to increase economic impact payments to $2,000. To vote against this bill is to deny the financial hardship that families face and to deny them the relief they need," Pelosi said in a statement Thursday morning.

"Hopefully, by then the president will have already signed the bipartisan and bicameral legislation to keep government open and to deliver coronavirus relief," she said.

The House is adjourned until Monday afternoon, when members will also vote on whether to override President Donald Trump's veto of the annual defense authorization bill.

Thursday's failed vote was the latest chapter in the saga of lawmakers' attempts to pass a massive stimulus package to provide economic relief during the crippling pandemic and the subsequent economic collapse.

Trump shredded the year-end spending and Covid-19 relief package this week, saying it includes too many provisions that have nothing to do with the pandemic and that it is too stingy with payments to average Americans. The $900 billion relief package, which was passed by both chambers of Congress, included a new round of direct payments and help for jobless Americans, families and businesses struggling in the pandemic.

In a video posted to Twitter, Trump complained Tuesday night that the $600 stimulus checks were too small, arguing that qualifying individuals should get $2,000 and that couples should get $4,000.

After Trump's comments, House Democrats rushed to schedule a vote to increase the payments as Trump demanded. Because many members of the House are out of town, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said, leaders tried to pass the bill by unanimous consent, which meant any single member could kill it.

Its failure to advance Thursday morning throws into further doubt the future of any imminent financial relief for millions of struggling Americans.

Hoyer blasted House Republicans on Thursday for blocking the increase in direct aid and Trump for not yet having signed the spending and relief legislation sitting on his desk. Hoyer repeatedly referred to Trump's videotaped statement calling the $600 direct payments "insufficient" and said that is why "we responded this morning." The unanimous consent request to pass the increased payments was "consistent with the president's request," Hoyer said.

A top Senate Republican also urged Trump on Thursday to sign the bill, while adding that he did not support raising the payments.

"The best way out of this is for the president to sign the bill, and I still hope that's what he decides to do," Roy Blunt of Missouri, chairman of the Senate Republican Policy Committee, told reporters.

Asked whether a bill to increase direct payment checks from $600 to $2,000 would get the 60 votes needed to pass in the Senate, Blunt said, "It would not."

Trump's comments Tuesday sent Washington spiraling into chaos after lawmakers had spent months hashing out a deal on the largest piece of legislation of the year, and it left many frustrated that Trump had waited so long to voice his concerns after largely having sat out the negotiation process.

Before Trump spoke, all signs and expectations had been that he intended to sign the bill as soon as it landed on his desk. White House aides also said as much.

House Democrats, who had advocated higher direct checks only to encounter Republican resistance in the Senate, immediately said they welcomed Trump's support for sending out more money.

The legislation already passed by Congress includes two bills that were combined: One was the Covid-19 relief and stimulus bill, and the other was a large spending bill to fund the government through September. If the spending bill is not enacted, the government will have to start shutting down beginning Tuesday.

Pelosi tweeted Thursday afternoon that the bill was being sent to Trump and urged him to sign it.

Hoyer said earlier, "We're not going to let the government shut down," adding, "We are considering options and what steps we will take."

After the vote on the direct payments failed, House Republicans made their own unanimous consent request to "revisit" the foreign aid part of the $1.4 trillion omnibus spending package, a move the Democrats then blocked. Trump had railed against wasteful foreign spending in his comments this week, even though his own budget proposal had included the provisions he singled out for criticism.