- The Washington Times
Thursday, December 24, 2020

Republicans shot down a last-minute Christmas Eve push from Democrats to rush through $2,000 stimulus checks for Americans.

Democrats returned the favor by slapping down the Republicans’ push to revisit the levels of foreign aid included in the spending package that both chambers passed earlier in the week.

The tit for tat in the House played out as lawmakers from both parties waited for President Trump to act on the $2.3 trillion spending deal, which includes $1.4 trillion in regular federal government spending for 2021 and $900 billion in COVID-19 relief.

Mr. Trump’s critique of the deal has hung over Washington, fueling concerns that he could add to the holiday chaos with a stroke of his veto pen as the government barrels toward a partial shutdown and expiring pandemic relief measures.

Mr. Trump, who is celebrating Christmas at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, signaled that he was more focused on his long-shot bid to overturn the results of the November election.

“At a meeting in Florida today, everyone was asking why aren’t the Republicans up in arms & fighting over the fact that the Democrats stole the rigged presidential election?” Mr. Trump said in a post on Twitter. “Especially in the Senate, they said, where you helped 8 Senators win their races. How quickly they forget!”

Mr. Trump and first lady Melania Trump also posted a video wishing everyone a merry Christmas and a happy new year.

The spending package passed both chambers of Congress by a veto-proof majority.

But Republican support for the bill would vie with loyalty to Mr. Trump in a veto override vote.

If the package dies, then other popular measures would be nixed. Among them are:

• Roughly $284 billion for another round of Paycheck Protection Program loans to keep small businesses afloat.

• $25 billion in rental assistance.

• An extension of the eviction moratorium.

• $82 billion for schools grappling with reopening and distance learning.

• Another round of supercharged federal unemployment benefits, this time with a $300 boost to weekly unemployment checks.

In Washington, Democrats sought to piggyback on Mr. Trump’s charge that the $600 stimulus checks in the COVID-19 relief bill should be bumped up to $2,000.

House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat, called on his colleagues to adopt legislation mirroring Mr. Trump’s demand via a unanimous consent request.

Republicans balked at the plan, angering House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat.

“Today, on Christmas Eve morning, House Republicans cruelly deprived the American people of the $2,000 that the President agreed to support,” Mrs. Pelosi said in a statement. “If the President is serious about the $2,000 direct payments, he must call on House Republicans to end their obstruction.”

Mr. Pelosi said the fight for bigger checks has not ended and vowed to hold a vote Monday in the House.

“To vote against this bill is to deny the financial hardship that families face and to deny them the relief they need,” she said.

Republicans countered with a unanimous consent request of their own. They called on Democrats to join them in revisiting foreign aid in the spending deal.

That also failed.

“The UC request I put forward today to revisit the State and Foreign Operations title of the Consolidated Appropriations Act was offered in an effort to reexamine spending and address concerns of President Trump at a time when many believe that taxpayer dollars should go towards helping Americans most affected by the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Rep. Robert Wittman, Virginia Republican, who offered the proposal after objecting to the Democrats’ plan.

Mr. Trump surprised lawmakers Tuesday by describing the spending deal, which Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin helped carve out, as a “disgrace.”

Mr. Trump said Congress should eliminate the “wasteful” spending in the proposal and increase the stimulus checks from $600 to $2,000.

Mr. Trump did not indicate whether he would veto the spending package, which, among other things, would extend unemployment benefits set to expire Saturday and keep the government funded past Monday.

Sen. Roy Blunt, Missouri Republican, told reporters Thursday on Capitol Hill that “the best way out of this is for the president to sign the bill.”

“I still hope that’s what he decides to do,” he said.

Mr. Blunt also said he doesn’t think the push for $2,000 stimulus checks could survive the Republican-controlled Senate.

House Republicans also have raised red flags about Democrats’ push for bigger checks. They said Democrats have cherry-picked parts of Mr. Trump’s criticism of the bill.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California said in a letter to his Republican colleagues Wednesday that 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 being spent overseas while so many of our neighbors at home are struggling to make ends meet,” he said.

Still, Mr. Hoyer urged Mr. Trump to sign the spending deal.

“Just days ago, both the House and the Senate overwhelmingly passed a bill that we sent to the president of the United States, who has demurred so far,” Mr. Hoyer told reporters. “He has not said he’s going to veto the bill. I hope he doesn’t veto the bill. I hope he signs this bill.”

He said Republicans in Congress and the White House are not on the same page and that Democrats were answering the president’s push for larger checks.

“Believe it or not, Democrats agree with the president, at least to the extent that we need to sign this bill now,” he said. “Six hundred dollars is certainly not enough for individuals who have been struggling these past seven months, and it isn’t enough to provide the boost our economy needs.”

• Seth McLaughlin can be reached at smclaughlin@washingtontimes.com.

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