House Republicans have blocked a last-minute move by Democrats to boost the size of Americans’ stimulus checks — as President Donald Trump has demanded — setting up a showdown in Congress next week with trillions of dollars at stake.
House Democrats on Thursday offered a key change to Congress’ recently passed economic rescue package, proposing to increase the size of direct payments to $2,000, up from the $600 that Republicans had previously agreed to.
But Republicans blocked the move in a Christmas Eve floor maneuver in a mostly empty Capitol building, leaving both parties scrambling to avert a Trump-driven crisis in the final days of his presidency and in the waning days of the 116th Congress — uncertain how to deliver quick relief to millions of Americans suffering in the pandemic-battered economy.
“Believe it or not, Democrats agree with the president,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told reporters after Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va.) blocked the $2,000 checks on the floor.
Trump’s rejection Tuesday night of the stimulus package — which landed like a thunderclap on an already emptied out Capitol Hill — has pitted the mercurial president against his own party in the final days of his presidency.
And it’s brought Washington to the brink of yet another government shutdown, while delaying badly needed money for food programs, unemployment, hospitals and vaccine distribution.
Republicans say privately they don’t know whether Trump will act before Monday, when federal funding runs out. Trump has already departed Washington for his Florida vacation home.
The House plans to return Monday, where lawmakers will take a full vote on whether to substitute the $2,000 checks in the bill, as Trump has demanded. House Democrats have discussed voting on another stopgap spending bill to ward off a shutdown, but it’s unclear if the Senate would return to Washington to take it up, or if Trump would sign it. House Democrats also plan to vote to override Trump’s veto of the annual defense spending bill.
Speaking after their failed efforts on the floor, Hoyer and other Democrats delivered an urgent plea to Trump to sign the bill and avoid plunging the nation into more chaos.
“This is Christmas Eve,” Hoyer said. “Surely, the president of the United States — whether he’s in Mar-A-Lago or anywhere else — ought to empathize with the pain and suffering and apprehension and deep angst that American people are feeling.”
“The entire Covid-19 relief package — so desperately needed by our people and our businesses — remains on the president’s desk and he needs to sign it today,” Hoyer said.
Standing beside him, an emotional Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.), railed against the president for blocking the package, arguing that Trump “doesn’t give a damn about people.”
“He sowed more fear. He threw kerosene on a fire,” Dingell said.
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