WASHINGTON — An unlikely band of lawmakers are backing President Trump’s last-minute push to increase stimulus payments from $600 to $2,000 as the Senate reaches a stalemate on a vote.
From progressive icons Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D-NY) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) to GOP rising star Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO), the growing group has called on Congress to pass the measure, describing the existing $600 payments as too paltry.
Trump on Sunday begrudgingly signed into law the $2.3 trillion COVID-19 relief and government funding bill that included $600 stimulus checks for most Americans after calling it a “disgrace.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif) made a rare show of unity with Trump after he released a video demanding Congress amend the package, responding “Let’s do it!” before introducing a stand-alone bill to fatten the checks.
The Democrat-controlled House on Monday passed the CASH Act with 44 Republican votes and sent it to the upper chamber where Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday immediately shot down a unanimous vote.
Opponents of the measure, which would increase the payments by $1,400 and expand who is eligible, say it would heap an estimated $463 billion onto the national debt and increase inflation.
In a Monday evening tweet, Ocasio-Cortez took a swing at the lawmakers who rejected the bill, including members of her own party.
“If you’re going to err, err on the side of helping people,” AOC wrote after Oregon Democratic Rep. Kurt Schrader declared he was against the $2,000 checks.
McConnell’s decision to block Senate Democrats’ initial attempt to vote on the Cash Act infuriated the president who tweeted a Washington Post article about the development.
“Unless Republicans have a death wish, and it is also the right thing to do, they must approve the $2000 payments ASAP. $600 IS NOT ENOUGH!” he wrote.
Frustrated by McConnell’s obfuscation, Sanders has threatened to filibuster a Wednesday vote to override Trump’s veto of a $740 billion defense bill unless McConnell schedules a vote on the $2,000 checks.
Trump and Sanders became unlikely allies when the president indicated on Twitter that he approved Sander’s filibuster that would foil McConnell’s plan.
“Give the people $2000, not $600. They have suffered enough!,” Trump said, quote-tweeting a post about Sanders’ efforts.
Sanders and Hawley also emerged as strange bedfellows earlier this month when they banded together to make a bipartisan push for $1,200 checks in the $900 trillion stimulus package.
Sen. Josh Hawley, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Bernie SandersPhoto by Patrick Semansky-Pool/Getty Images; Photo by DNCC via Getty Images) (Photo by Handout/DNCC via Getty Images; Photo by 2020 Billboard Women In Music/Getty Images for Billboard
The brewing political fight is likely to engulf the final weeks of Congress’ session.
Pressure is mounting on McConnell from members on both sides of the aisle who want to see increased aid for Americans hurt by pandemic’s economic fallout.
Top Republican lawmaker Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina announced he was on board after spending part of Christmas with the president at his Mar-A-Lago resort in Florida, tweeting: “I hope Congress is listening.”
“I am convinced he is more determined than ever to increase stimulus payments to $2000 per person,” Graham added.
The “Squad” of progressive House lawmakers tabled their own legislation to fatten COVID-19 stimulus checks on Christmas Eve while Florida GOP Sen. Marco Rubio became the latest lawmaker to support the measure on Monday evening.
“I agree with the President that millions of working class families are in dire need of additional relief, which is why I support $2,000 in direct payments to Americans struggling due to the pandemic,” he tweeted.
GOP Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue who are both facing tough re-election fights in the must-win Georgia Senate runoff races have also come out in support of the fatter checks.
“I think with the vaccine coming, I think this is absolutely appropriate, so I fully support what the president’s doing right now,” Perdue told Fox News after previously backed the $600 plan.
It’s unclear when or if McConnell will allow a vote on the CASH Act but Sanders could filibuster until New Year’s Day, keeping Perdue and Loeffler in Washington just days before the Jan. 5 runoff election which will determine control of the Senate in Joe Biden’s Washington.