US House Republicans block Democrats’ bid to pass $2,000 stimulus checks

Republicans in the US House of Representatives blocked an attempt from House Democrats to pass $2,000 direct payments to Americans, a figure demanded by President Donald Trump.

House Democrats moved to increase the amount of stimulus checks after the outgoing Republican president on Tuesday threatened to veto a US $900 billion Covid-19 relief package unless lawmakers raise the stimulus checks for individuals from US $600 to US $2,000, Xinhua news agency reported on Thursday.

The US House of Representatives and Senate both approved the relief package late Monday, along with US $1.4 trillion dollars in government funding for the rest of the fiscal year, which ends on September 30, 2021, sending the giant spending bill to the president to sign into law.

The US $900 billion relief plan includes another round of direct payments for individuals, federal unemployment benefits — both at reduced levels — and more funding for Paycheck Protection Program to support small businesses. It also features hundreds of billions more for schools, testing and the distribution of vaccines.

Lawmakers agreed on US $600 direct payments, much lower than the US $1,200 approved as part of the the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act in late March, because many Republicans aimed to hold down the plan’s overall cost.

Trump said in a video that he wanted Congress to increase the amount in the stimulus checks to US $2,000 for individuals or US $4,000 for couples, calling the 600 dollars for individuals “ridiculously low.” According to the current bill, a family of four would receive up to US $2,400.

The president also argued that the 5,000-plus-page bill contains many measures that almost have nothing to do with Covid-19, such as foreign assistance funds, which is actually part of the US $1.4 trillion regular government funding, approved along with the relief package.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, top Democrat in the lower chamber, retweeted the video and said Republicans repeatedly refused to say what amount the president wanted for direct checks.

“At last, the President has agreed to US $2,000 — Democrats are ready to bring this to the floor this week by unanimous consent. Let’s do it!” said Pelosi.

The Congressional approval of the relief measure came after Democratic and Republican lawmakers finally reached a deal on Sunday, following months of deadlock over the size and scope of the package.

For Democrats, the US $900 billion relief package is much smaller than the US $3.4 trillion proposal they passed in the House in May, and down from the US $2.2 trillion trimmed version they offered in October.

Some Senate Republicans, however, insisted on a relief package below 1 trillion dollars, and had previously pushed for a US $500 billion bill.