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Top Democrat: Outcome of Georgia runoffs will influence push for $2,000 checks

Top Democrat: Outcome of Georgia runoffs will influence push for $2,000 checks
© Greg Nash

Democratic efforts to provide Americans with stimulus checks of $2,000 will be influenced in large part by the outcome of Tuesday's Senate runoffs in Georgia, a top House lawmaker said this week.

"I think it's more contingent upon what happens on Jan. 5," House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard NealRichard Edmund NealOcasio-Cortez: wage only 'socialist' to those in 'dystopian capitalist nightmare' Bottom line Democrats adjust language on child tax credit in relief bill MORE (D-Mass.) told reporters Sunday when asked about the timing of future legislation on direct payments.

Democrats, as well as President TrumpDonald TrumpSouth Carolina Senate adds firing squad as alternative execution method Ex-Trump aide Pierson won't run for Dallas-area House seat House Oversight panel reissues subpoena for Trump's accounting firm MORE and some Republican lawmakers, are pushing to increase the $600 stimulus payments in a new coronavirus relief law to $2,000. The House last week passed a bill to increase the payment amount to $2,000, with 44 Republicans joining most Democrats in supporting the measure. But the bill was not taken up by the GOP-controlled Senate.

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A new Congress started Sunday, meaning House Democrats will need to pass their previous bill again if they want it to move forward. If Democrats win both of the Georgia Senate runoffs, they will have control of Congress once President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenIntercept bureau chief: minimum wage was not 'high priority' for Biden in COVID-19 relief South Carolina Senate adds firing squad as alternative execution method Obama alum Seth Harris to serve as Biden labor adviser: report MORE takes office, increasing the odds of passing new stimulus legislation.

Many Republicans have argued the House-passed bill would benefit high-income households instead of targeting the payments toward more vulnerable workers. Neal pushed back on those criticisms Sunday.

"I think this idea that the other side is pointing out that somehow this money is all going to people in the upper economic echelon is not met by the facts," he said, noting there are fewer jobs in the U.S. now than there were at the beginning of last year.

During a news conference Monday, House Democratic Caucus Chair Hakeem JeffriesHakeem Sekou JeffriesHarris holds first meeting in ceremonial office with CBC members Democratic fury with GOP explodes in House Congressional Black Caucus unveils '100 Day Plan' MORE (N.Y.) said he thinks the issue of $2,000 direct payments is "unfinished business," but that it remains to be seen what the incoming Biden administration will want to include in subsequent coronavirus relief legislation.

Mike Lillis contributed.