Republicans block $2,000 virus checks despite Trump demand

WASHINGTON — House Republicans shot down a Democratic bid on Thursday to pass President Trump’s longshot, end-of-session demand for $2,000 direct payments to most Americans as he ponders whether to sign a long-overdue COVID-19 relief bill.
The made-for-TV clash came as the Democratic-controlled chamber convened for a pro forma session that had been scheduled in anticipation of Trump signing the massive, year-end legislative package, which folds together $1.4 trillion governmentwide spending with the hard-fought COVID-19 package and dozens of unrelated but bipartisan bills.
Instead, Thursday’s 12-minute House session morphed into unconvincing theater in response to Trump’s veto musings about the package, which was negotiated by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Trump’s behalf. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, the No. 2 House Democrat, sought the unanimous approval of all House members to pass the bigger checks, but GOP leader Kevin McCarthy, who was not present in the nearly empty chamber, denied approval.
If Trump were to follow through on his implied veto threat, delivered via video clip on Tuesday, the government would likely experience a brief, partial shutdown of the government starting on Dec. 29. It would also delay delivery of the $600 direct payments that the bill does contain and other help for the unemployed and people facing eviction.
The push for bigger payments has created rare common cause between Trump and some of the most liberal members of Congress. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said they fought for the higher stipends during protracted negotiations only to settle on the lower number when Republicans refused. Democrats plan to hold a roll call vote on the $2,000 check proposal on Monday when members of the House return to Washington.
Senate Republicans, led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, have opposed larger $2,000 checks as too costly and poorly targeted.
The path forward, including efforts to avert a shutdown or perhaps even pass a last-ditch extension of soon-to-expire jobless checks, remained unclear.
“We’re not gonna let the government shut down, nor are we going to let the American people down,” Hoyer said. “There are continuing discussions going on between the speaker, and the secretary of the Treasury and the administration.”
The House is already set to return Monday, and the Senate Tuesday, for a vote to override Trump’s veto of the must-pass defense bill.
The Senate cleared the huge relief package by a 92-6 vote after the House approved it by 359-53. Those votes totals would be enough to override a veto should Trump decide to take that step.

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