Americans could be getting $2,000 COVID relief checks soon after all

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Nothing is certain, but Democrats, including President-elect Joe Biden, want the checks 'out the door' as soon as possible.

The likelihood of Americans getting $2,000 virus relief checks has risen since Democrats swept the Georgia runoffs on Tuesday to take back the U.S. Senate.

On Wednesday, Democrat Rev. Raphael Warnock made history, becoming Georgia's first Black senator after defeating GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler, who was appointed in December 2019 to serve out the remainder of former Sen. Johnny Isakson's term. Democrat Jon Ossoff also triumphed over Republican Sen. David Perdue, who came under scrutiny on multiple occasions last year for several insider trading allegations, which he has repeatedly denied.

The dual victories mean Democrats will now have the majority in the House and Senate, as well as the White House. Previously, under Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the Senate GOP patently refused to pass additional COVID-19 relief for Americans, suggesting it would overburden the U.S. economy and that the public did not actually need the money.

In December, Congress finally passed a $900 billion COVID relief package that included $600 direct payments to Americans, after Republicans blocked a $1,200 stimulus payment passed earlier in the year by House Democrats as part of a separate relief bill.

Donald Trump himself pushed for an increased $2,000 shortly after the election, prompting the House to pass additional legislation responding to that demand. But McConnell rejected the bill, saying that it needed to be attached to other priorities, which Democrats staunchly opposed.

Now, with Warnock and Ossoff set to join the Senate, Democrats and Republicans will have a 50-50 split in the chamber, where Democratic Vice President Kamala Harris will act as the deciding vote. This majority advantage would release the Senate from gridlock and could allow them to send Americans a bigger COVID relief check.

"Mitch McConnell and the Senate GOP stood in the way of much needed $2000 checks going out the door, but now thanks to electoral change, this needed investment in our nation's people will hopefully be made," said Lisa Gilbert, executive vice president of the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen, in an interview with the American Independent Foundation this week.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has already signaled his willingness to parcel out more direct relief.

In a press briefing on Wednesday, he stated, "One of the first things that I want to do when our new senators are seated, is deliver the $2,000 checks to the American families."

The same day, Schumer released a statement on the Georgia races, saying, "It feels like a brand new day. For the first time in six years, Democrats will operate a majority in the United States Senate — and that will be very good for the American people."

Schumer added that "help is on the way," as Democrats are committed to "bold change."

Warnock and Ossoff are proponents of increasing the $2,000 direct payments, themselves, with both having said in media interviews that people need the relief.

Democratic President-elect Joe Biden has also gotten behind the idea, saying that "$2,000 checks will go out the door, restoring hope and decency for so many people who are struggling right now" if Ossoff and Warnock won on Tuesday.

Biden previously called the $600 relief check legislation a "down payment" on future COVID relief.

"At a time when every dollar counts to get food on the table for Americans, an influx of additional cash can make the difference between survival and struggle. We anticipate the new Congress will focus quickly on an additional stimulus package which will include more money for individuals," Gilbert said this week.

Bipartisan Policy Center senior vice president Bill Hoagland told CNBC that he thinks the increased direct payment would be "a stimulus package that [Biden] and the vice president-elect put together."

Alex Lawson, who leads the liberal advocacy group Social Security Works, similarly told the Washington Post that he is holding Biden and Democrats to account for past statements, saying, "They’re now going to have to deliver that, starting with the checks on day one."

Even some Senate Republicans have voiced support for a $2000 stimulus check, including Josh Hawley (MO) and Marco Rubio (FL). Neither have yet said whether they would vote in favor of such a bill, if presented after Biden takes office. Hawley has notably worked to overturn the 2020 election results, voting to oppose certification of the Electoral College results on Wednesday and egging on pro-Trump extremists who, inspired by election lies Trump and his allies have pushed as well as direct instruction from Trump to march on the building, attacked the U.S. Capitol that same day.

In recent months, polls showed that a majority of Americans, including Republicans, supported giving out more than the $600 direct payments that Congress passed previously.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.