House passes bill to increase stimulus checks to $2,000, sends measure to Senate

Politics

WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — After President Donald Trump signed into law a $900 billion pandemic relief package that includes $600 stimulus checks for struggling Americans, lawmakers are continuing efforts to raise stimulus check amounts in Congress; the House passed a standalone bill late Monday afternoon that would increase the amount to $2,000 if approved by the Senate.

The vote count was 275-134.

Of the members who voted against the $2,000 check, 130 were Republicans, 2 were Independents and 2 were Democrats.

Trump signed into law a $2.3 trillion pandemic aid and spending package on Sunday, restoring unemployment benefits to millions of Americans. The deal provides $1.4 trillion to fund government agencies through September and contains other end-of-session priorities such as an increase in food stamp benefits.

The House gaveled in for the rare holiday week session to vote on Trump’s unmet demand for larger $2,000 virus relief checks. Democrats who control the House favor the larger stipends, beyond the $600 payments included in the massive COVID-19 bill, and passed a standalone bill seeking to increase the checks to $2,000. But the president’s push for more spending is forcing his Republican allies who oppose the higher payments into a tough spot.

The bill passed the House, but faces resistance Tuesday from the Republican-led Senate.

The House chaplain opened in prayer for the lawmakers. “They return to the Capitol with a huge weight lifted from their shoulders, for which a nation is grateful, ” said Rev. Patrick Conroy.

Currently, with the president’s signature, the checks will be at $600 per adult and per dependent child, with caps based on annual income.

“As President, I have told Congress that I want far less wasteful spending and more money going to the American people in the form of $2,000 checks per adult and $600 per child,” the president said in a statement.

On Monday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi brought the standalone bill to the House floor to increase check sizes.

Increasing the $600 checks to $2,000 would cost $464 billion, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation, which prepares cost estimates for legislation before Congress.

Lawmakers also voted Monday to override Trump’s recent veto of a $740 billion bill setting policy for the Defense Department, with the House voting on the measure late Monday afternoon. It is the first veto override of Trump’s presidency.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said he would offer Trump’s proposal for $2,000 checks for a vote in Senate this week.

“The House will pass a bill to give Americans $2,000 checks,” Schumer tweeted. “Then I will move to pass it in the Senate.” He said no Democrats will object. “Will Senate Republicans?”

Many of Trump’s fellow Republicans, who control the Senate, oppose the higher relief payments.

Republican Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama counted himself Monday among the opponents of a more generous relief package and Trump’s call for higher payments.

“It’s money we don’t have, we have to borrow to get and we can’t afford to pay back,” he said on “Fox and Friends.” “Someone’s got to show me how we’re going to pay for it. How far before we all go into debilitating insolvency and bankruptcy?”

But Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York said she was open to the idea of $2,000 checks. “Many Americans are in dire need of relief,” she said on the show.

For now, the administration can only begin work sending out the $600 payments.

Unemployment benefits being paid out to about 14 million people through pandemic programs lapsed on Saturday but will be restarted now that Trump has signed the bill.

The relief package extends a moratorium on evictions that was due to expire on Dec. 31, refreshes support for small-business payrolls, provides funding to help schools re-open and aid for the transport industry and vaccine distribution.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report. All reporting by Susan Cornwell and Steve Holland of Reuters and Jill Covin, Lisa Mascaro and Andrew Taylor of the AP.

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