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Democrats rally behind monthly $2,000 relief checks

Democrats are rallying behind a plan to give most Americans monthly $2,000 relief checks during the coronavirus crisis, an issue that’s popular with the liberal base and American voters amid widespread economic damage from the deadly pandemic.

There’s no guarantee the costly proposal will make it into the final coronavirus package that will eventually be negotiated by the Trump administration and Democratic leaders.

Republicans, who control the Senate, are balking at the idea even as the president concedes more aid may be needed for workers.

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But on a call with Democrats this week, sources said Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOklahoma man who videotaped himself with his feet on desk in Pelosi's office during Capitol riot released on bond House formally sends impeachment to Senate, putting Trump on trial for Capitol riot With another caravan heading North, a closer look at our asylum law MORE (D-Calif.) endorsed the monthly relief checks — the greatest indication yet that she could include the plan in the CARES 2 package that House Democrats plan to unveil in the coming days.

“The government has told people we need to shelter in place to keep safe. So it’s the government’s obligation to provide for basic expenses while we’re telling people not to work. It’s really that simple,” Rep. Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaHouse Democrats introduce measures to oppose Trump's bomb sale to Saudis House impeaches Trump for second time — with some GOP support Stacey Abrams gets kudos for work in Georgia runoff election MORE (D-Calif.), a progressive leader who has authored legislation calling for more relief checks, told The Hill.

“We need $2,000 a month for families struggling to pay the bills,” he added.

The idea builds off the initial $2.2 trillion CARES Act, which gave most Americans one-time stimulus checks of up to $1,200, plus more money for each dependent, and has been gaining momentum among Democrats on both sides of the Capitol.

Rep. Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibBiden and the new Congress must protect Americans from utility shutoffs Overnight Energy: EPA rule exempts many polluting industries from future air regulations | Ex-Michigan governor to be charged over Flint water crisis: report | Officials ousted from White House after papers casting doubt on climate science Ex-Michigan governor to be charged over Flint water crisis: report MORE (D-Mich.) and Progressive Caucus Co-Chair Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalPublic option won't serve the public The Hill's Morning Report - Biden asks Congress to expand largest relief response in U.S. history Rep. Adriano Espaillat tests positive for COVID-19 MORE (D-Wash.) have teamed up on the ABC Act that would give every American $2,000 a month for the duration of the crisis, and $1,000 a month for an entire year after the crisis ends.

Similar legislation offered by Khanna, who was co-chairman of Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersTim Ryan says he's 'looking seriously' at running for Portman's Senate seat Bernie Sanders has been most-followed member of Congress on social media for six years This week: Senate stuck in limbo MORE's (I-Vt.) presidential campaign, and Rep. Tim RyanTimothy (Tim) RyanPortman planned exit sets off Ohio free-for-all Tim Ryan says he's 'looking seriously' at running for Portman's Senate seat Portman won't run for reelection MORE (D-Ohio), would be based on means testing. The Emergency Money for the People Act would give a $2,000 monthly payment to individuals making less than $130,000 a year, or $4,000 a month for couples making less than $260,000 annually. 

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Reps. Madeleine DeanMadeleine DeanHouse formally sends impeachment to Senate, putting Trump on trial for Capitol riot Sunday shows preview: All eyes on Biden administration to tackle coronavirus Pelosi names 9 impeachment managers MORE (D-Pa.) and Don Beyer (D-Va.), the top Democrat on the Joint Economic Committee, are calling on Pelosi to include their plan in the next coronavirus bill. It calls for an additional one-time $1,500 payment and possible $1,000 quarterly payments based on certain “triggers,” including high unemployment.

On Friday, Sens. Sanders, Ed MarkeyEd MarkeyBiden expands on Obama ethics pledge Democrats shoot down McConnell's filibuster gambit Biden signs executive order invoking 2-year lobbying ban for appointees MORE (D-Mass.) and Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisInaugural poet Amanda Gorman inks deal with IMG Models Overnight Defense: Biden lifts Trump's transgender military ban | Democrats, advocates celebrate end of ban | 5,000 guardsmen staying in DC through mid-March The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - GOP senator retires MORE (D-Calif.), a leading contender to be Joe BidenJoe BidenBudowsky: A Biden-McConnell state of emergency summit DC might win US House vote if it tries Inaugural poet Amanda Gorman inks deal with IMG Models MORE’s running mate, rolled out a plan of their own, the Monthly Economic Crisis Support Act. It would send monthly $2,000 checks to Americans who make less than $120,000 a year, up until three months after the pandemic ends. Married couples would receive $4,000, plus another $2,000 for each child.

“Bills come in every single month during the pandemic and so should help from our government,” Harris tweeted.

These types of programs put cash directly in the hands — or bank accounts — of Americans struggling to stay afloat during the pandemic. But it’s also good politics, something Trump administration officials recognized when they put the president’s signature on the $1,200 stimulus checks. 

And 60 percent of Americans say that initial relief check wasn’t enough to get them through the pandemic, according to a recent MONEY/Morning Consult poll.

“A monthly stimulus check is a win all around: for America and the economy, for Democrats and for Trump,” said a source who was on this week’s call with Democratic whip team call where Pelosi voiced support for more relief checks. “People care about getting a check from the government, not the PPP,” the Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses. “You restart the economy with a direct stimulus check, not a slush fund for big banks.”

Pelosi raised eyebrows last month when she told MSNBC that a basic or guaranteed income proposal, giving Americans a minimum monthly income, could now be “worthy of attention” given the economic calamity brought on by the coronavirus. It’s a variation of the universal basic income plan promoted by entrepreneur Andrew YangAndrew YangYang to quarantine after campaign staffer tests positive for COVID-19 Andrew Yang sparks Twitter uproar with pro-bodega video Yang announces run for New York City mayor MORE during his improbable run for the Democratic presidential nomination.

But Democrats said they were pleasantly surprised this week when Pelosi, unprompted, told colleagues she wanted to see a $2,000 monthly payments provision included in the CARES 2 package. Aides said the Speaker didn’t mention a specific bill and they cautioned that no final decision had been made about whether it will be included in the package that House Democrats plan to vote on next week or the week after. 

What’s certain is that she will have a big say about what ends up in the final product, even as she directs her leadership team and top committee chairmen to work out the details of CARES 2. 

One concern for Pelosi and her leadership team: They may not want CARES 2 to become a liberal wish list that alienates vulnerable swing-district Democrats and their constituents. But these moderate Democrats facing tough reelections in the fall are not slamming the door on the idea of additional relief checks; they just want to ensure the money is distributed appropriately. 

“The suffering is broad, the suffering is deep. And, you know, I want to entertain any idea that can provide relief to people to get through these difficult days,” said one vulnerable Democratic lawmaker. 

But he added: “I'm troubled, a little bit though, by any mechanism that doesn't have some degree of a means test applied to it. When I see PPP loans going to businesses that are actually doing just fine or checks going to people that don't need them — that's troublesome to me.”

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In that same vein, Rep. Cheri BustosCheryl (Cheri) Lea BustosFive centrist Democrats oppose Pelosi for Speaker in tight vote LIVE COVERAGE: House votes to name Speaker AOC v. Pelosi: Round 12? MORE (D-Ill.), who has the difficult task of protecting front line Democrats this November, has joined a bipartisan, bicameral group of lawmakers in questioning the Trump administration why some dead people have been receiving coronavirus stimulus checks. 

“While it is essential that our constituents receive stimulus payments quickly, these improper payments to deceased individuals represent significant government waste and a burden to constituents who mistakenly receive the payments,” the lawmakers wrote.

Updated: 12:19 p.m.