House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday called on GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy to join her in backing a boost to the coronavirus stimulus checks – which would bump them to $2,000 – because of a last-minute demand from President Trump.
Trump in a video posted to Twitter on Tuesday night demanded that lawmakers amend the coronavirus stimulus package they passed Monday to include $2,000 checks for individuals instead of $600 checks, while also insisting that “wasteful and unnecessary” items be cut from the year-end spending package that was attached to the pandemic aid.
Pelosi and Democrats had wanted much higher stimulus checks, too, but settled on the $600 figure in bipartisan negotiations with their Republican counterparts. So Trump’s sudden interest in dramatically increasing the checks was an offer that Pelosi was quick to accept. “Let’s do it!” she tweeted.
Pelosi wants to bring a stand-alone piece of legislation to the House floor Thursday morning to increase the stimulus check amount in time for Christmas, daring Republicans to object.
“To do so requires the agreement of the Republican Leader,” Pelosi wrote in a letter to Democratic colleagues Wednesday. “This agreement is necessary in the House and in the Senate. If the President truly wants to join us in $2,000 payments, he should call upon Leader McCarthy to agree to our Unanimous Consent request.”
In addition to McCarthy’s blessing, the effort would also need broader support. Unlike a traditional roll call vote, one member of Congress could object on the House floor to scuttle the attempt to pass the measure unanimously.
If this last-ditch effort passes the House, it would still need approval from the Senate.
Pelosi criticized Trump’s eleventh-hour antics when he was absent from the bipartisan negotiations with herself and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer.
“Just when you think you have seen it all, last night, the President said that he would possibly veto the bicameral agreement negotiated between Republicans and Democrats,” Pelosi wrote to House Democrats.
“…In the bipartisan negotiations, Leader Schumer and I repeatedly asked Republicans what would be the highest number the President would accept for direct payments, and they responded with Sphinx-like silence. In the negotiations, they would never go above $600 and in some cases, proposed $500.”
The $600 payments cost about $167 billion. Increasing checks to $2,000 would grow the cost of the bill by $370 billion, Ernie Tedeschi, an economist and former Treasury Department official in the Obama administration told The Washington Post.
Schumer, too, put pressure on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to accept the higher checks that Trump says he needs to sign off on $900 billion coronavirus relief.
“I’m in. Whaddya say, Mitch?” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., tweeted.
McConnell’s office did not respond to a request for comment on what the Senate may do in light of Trump’s Monday video. He and other GOP lawmakers had touted the stimulus deal as a triumph on Monday and Tuesday before Trump called it a “disgrace.”
McCarthy’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.