House GOP rejects unanimous consent on $2,000 direct payments
House Republicans rejected an effort by House Democrats on Thursday to pass a bill to provide $2,000 stimulus checks — up from the $600 approved in a sweeping coronavirus relief and omnibus spending package earlier in the week.
Democrats offered the bill after President Trump raised objections to the $2.3 trillion COVID-19 relief and omnibus spending package approved by Congress on Monday.
Trump explicitly complained that the $600 direct payments to Americans included in the bill were too small, calling for the checks to be $2,000.
Democrats seized on the president’s words to try to put Republicans in a difficult spot, arguing they also preferred the higher payments.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) offered the measure to boost the check size to $2,000 during the Christmas Eve session of the House by unanimous consent.
A number of Republicans in Congress oppose direct payments of $2,000, saying they’re concerned about the impact on the deficit.
In response to Hoyer, Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va.) sought to bring up a competing measure to revisit the portion of the appropriations legislation that relates to foreign aid. Trump also criticized those provisions, which were included after a negotiation with Republicans and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who signed off on the deal.
Trump only raised his objections after the bill was approved by Congress, surprising members of both parties and putting Republicans in the House and Senate in a difficult political spot.
The government will shut down on Tuesday unless Trump signs the bill, or a new funding measure is approved.
Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.), who was presiding over the House, shot down the floor requests from Hoyer and Wittman, a move that was expected.
She said that under House guidelines, legislation can’t be considered by unanimous consent unless there is bipartisan approval from House floor and committee leadership.
Thursday’s effort by House Democrats to provide $2,000 direct payments won’t be their last. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said the House would hold a recorded vote on Monday for legislation that would increase the size of the checks in the relief package to $2,000.
“To vote against this bill is to deny the financial hardship that families face and to deny them the relief they need,” she said in a statement. “Hopefully by then the President will have already signed the bipartisan and bicameral legislation to keep the government open and to deliver coronavirus relief.”
Trump has not explicitly said he would veto the year-end legislation, and it’s unclear how he will ultimately proceed. He could still sign the bill, despite his misgivings.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) formally announced to his members on Wednesday evening the counter unanimous consent request in a “Dear Colleague” letter, attempting to cast blame on Democrats for the chaos on the spending bill despite the president’s criticisms and the foreign aid being in his budget request.
“House Democrats appear to be suffering from selective hearing. They have conveniently ignored the concerns expressed by the President, and shared by our constituents, that we ought to reexamine how our tax dollars are spent overseas while so many of our neighbors at home are struggling to make ends meet,” McCarthy wrote in a letter to colleagues.
“Thus, Republicans will offer a unanimous consent request to revisit the State and Foreign Operations title of the Omnibus so that we can fully address the concerns at hand. It will be up to Speaker Pelosi to decide if she wants to act on behalf of the American people,” he added.
McCarthy told members on a call Wednesday afternoon that he had spoken to Trump and that it was unclear whether he will ultimately sign the $2.3 trillion package.
Hoyer asserted Thursday that lawmakers “are not going to let the government shut down,” indicating the House could pass another stopgap bill next week.
“We are considering our options and what steps we will take. And I will tell you that there are continuing discussions going on between the Speaker and the secretary of the Treasury and the administration,” Hoyer said at a press conference Thursday morning.
Democrats slammed Trump for injecting ambiguity over the massive bill, the COVID-19 portion of which required months of negotiations, just ahead of the holidays when numerous pandemic-related programs are about to expire.
“[Trump] doesn’t give a damn about people,” Dingell told reporters. “He sowed more fear. He threw kerosene on a fire.”
Mnuchin had also negotiated the $2.3 trillion package, leading members of both parties to believe — falsely, it would turn out — that Trump was on board.
Trump’s opposition to the bill has frustrated members on both sides of the aisle in the wake of Mnuchin’s assurances he would sign it.
There’s now skepticism about whether Mnuchin is speaking on behalf of the president. Yet the bad blood between Pelosi and Trump is so severe that the pair haven’t spoken directly in over a year. And Hoyer said Thursday that Democrats have no other choice but to trust that the Treasury secretary is acting as Trump’s proxy.
“He is the person with whom we have to talk,” Hoyer said.
Mike Lillis contributed. Updated at 12:17 p.m.