WASHINGTON — The U.S. House of Representatives approved a measure Monday evening to send $2,000 stimulus checks to many Americans, embracing a call from President Donald Trump to more than triple the direct payments in the massive coronavirus relief package signed into law Sunday night.
A bill to boost the relief payments cleared the House on a vote of 275-134, with 44 Republicans joining all but two Democrats in support.
The Michigan delegation was split 9-5, with Libertarian U.S. Rep. Justin Amash of Cascade Township and independent U.S. Rep. Paul Mitchell (R-Dryden) joining three Republicans to vote no. They are: U.S. Reps. Bill Huizenga (R-Zeeland), Tim Walberg (R-Tipton) and John Moolenaar (R-Midland).
U.S. Reps. Jack Bergman (R-Watersmeet) and Fred Upton (R-Kalamazoo) joined all seven Democratic representatives in voting yes.
It now heads to the U.S. Senate, where the Republican majority had balked at repeating the $1,200 payments sent this spring when unemployment rolls surged nationally.
Instead, the $900 billion, bipartisan coronavirus relief bill that passed Congress last week included $600 checks to Americans who earn up to $75,000, with additional payments for dependent children and partial payments to those earning above that amount.
After that measure was approved, Trump suddenly dismissed those direct payments as too low, and called on Congress to approve $2,000 checks. Democrats quickly supported that call, saying they had sought more aid to those struggling amid the pandemic.
“I did support the legislation that included the $600 stimulus checks because that was all that we could get the other side to agree to,” said Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Flint) during Monday’s floor debate. “But it’s obviously not enough.”
“I strongly support $2,000 direct payments to Americans. Democrats have consistently pushed for higher payments, but Republicans have for months opposed larger stimulus checks,” he added. “As millions of Americans this holiday season struggle to put food on the table or keep a roof over their head, Congress must do more to provide relief. Democrats and President Trump support $2,000 direct payments — now Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)must allow for a vote on this relief immediately.”
House Republicans blocked an attempt last week by Democrats to fast-track larger stimulus checks. But in his signing statement Sunday evening, Trump repeated his call for $2,000 checks, declaring that “much more money is coming.”
Increasing those $600 checks to $2,000 would cost $464 billion, according to an analysis from the Joint Committee on Taxation, which prepares cost estimates for Congress. That’s roughly half of the cost of the overall relief package passed last week.
“Do we really think the way to improve the quality of life for many Americans is to just print more money from the Fed?” Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-Wis.) asked.
It’s not clear what comes next in the Republican-controlled Senate, where Democrats also are pushing for a vote. In his statement Sunday evening after Trump signed the coronavirus relief bill, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) did not mention the president’s comment that the Senate would “start the process for a vote” to boost those checks.
Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), a member of GOP leadership, told reporters last week that he did not believe a bill on $2,000 stimulus checks would clear the Senate’s 60-vote threshold.
But several Senate Republicans have signaled that they would support it, including Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who said in a statement Monday that Congress should quickly approve the larger checks.
“I share many of my colleagues’ concern about the long-term effects of additional spending, but we cannot ignore the fact that millions of working class families across the nation are still in dire need of relief,” Rubio said.