In a surprise video address on Tuesday night, President Trump said something House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) could finally get behind: The proposed stimulus checks of $600 in Congress’s coronavirus economic relief bill is “ridiculously low” and should be increased to $2,000.
While some congressional Democrats expressed their frustrations over the president’s timing one day after a nearly $900 billion bill was passed by Congress, others seized on Trump’s demand and put pressure on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and his fellow Republicans to make the deal happen.
“Seems like [McConnell] is now the only roadblock to getting the American people $2,000 checks” tweeted Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.).
“I’m in. Whaddya say, Mitch?” tweeted Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.). “Let’s not get bogged down with ideological offsets and unrelated items and just DO THIS! The American people deserve it.”
The president’s demands come after about nine months of arduous negotiations between Republicans and Democrats that Trump largely stayed away from. Trump suggested Tuesday that he would not immediately sign off on the aid package for millions of Americans, which he described as “a disgrace.”
If the president refuses to sign the bill, the consequences would be significant and severe, from hundreds of billions of dollars in economic aid being frozen to a government shutdown next week. The high-stakes Senate runoff for the two seats in Georgia, which will decide control of the chamber next month, could also be upended.
Pelosi said congressional Democrats could start the process as soon as Thursday, but amending the bill within days would be tricky and probably unsuccessful. If any House Republicans oppose Pelosi’s efforts, then it would not pass. Additionally, Senate Republicans would also have to pass the measure unanimously.
On Tuesday night, Democratic lawmakers expressed their willingness to work with Trump and blamed Republicans for not giving the president what he wants — which coincides with what they want. House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) tweeted Democrats had “fought for months” to provide a package with more money, while Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said he co-sponsored a bill with additional funding seven months ago.
“Now, Mr. President, get Mitch McConnell and your Republican friends to stop opposing it and we can provide working class Americans with $2,000. Let’s do it,” Sanders said.
McConnell has not publicly responded to the president’s demands as of early Wednesday.
Schumer, taunting Trump, said this is an opportunity for the president to step in and stop McConnell from blocking the measure.
“Maybe Trump can finally make himself useful and get Republicans not to block it again,” Schumer tweeted.
In a rare move given the divisiveness in Congress, some GOP lawmakers signaled a willingness to work with Democrats to give the president what he pushed for in his video. Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), one of the president’s closest allies in Congress, tweeted he does “appreciate” Pelosi’s support of Trump’s “idea.”
“The American people are hurting and deserve relief,” Graham said. “I know there is much bipartisan support for this idea. Let’s go further.”
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), a stand-alone GOP senator who pushed publicly for $1,200 stimulus checks, lauded Trump’s remarks. “There’s obviously plenty of $$ to do it,” Hawley tweeted.
But some Democrats questioned Trump’s timing for demanding $2,000 checks, with some saying the president wasn’t serious and doesn’t understand the process of funding a relief package. Rep. A. Donald McEachin (D-Va.) accused Trump of hurting the American people by suggesting he wouldn’t sign the bill, “choosing to prevent you from receiving a direct relief payment.” Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) pointed out derailing the stimulus bill would have a damaging impact on the unemployed: “Does the president realize that unemployment benefits expire the day after Christmas?”
But many Democrats remained hopeful something could be done — including those who have clashed with Trump throughout his term. Hours after Trump’s address went online, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) said she and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) already co-wrote the amendment.
“It’s ready to go,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted. “Glad to see the President is willing to support our legislation.”
Mike DeBonis contributed to this report.