Senate Republicans will have to choose between supporting Trump and opposing larger relief checks.
Donald Trump on Tuesday night threw a wrench in the coronavirus aid deal when he threatened to veto the package Congress passed on Monday, saying the $600 direct payments to Americans included in the bill were not generous enough.
"I am asking Congress to amend this bill and increase the ridiculously low $600 to $2,000 or $4,000 for a couple," Trump said in a video posted to Twitter.
Congressional Democrats have always wanted more generous direct payments. Two relief bills Democrats passed — the first on May 15 and the second on Oct. 1 — included $1,200 checks per taxpayer, maxing out at $6,000 per household.
But Senate Republicans believed those payments to be too generous, and forced them down to $600 per eligible adult and $600 per dependent child in the deal that passed Congress on Monday.
Now Trump's threat to veto the bill over the direct payment amount practically dares Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to oppose more generous aid to struggling Americans.
Senate Republicans such as Rand Paul of Kentucky have already criticized the pared- down $600 checks as too generous.
"If free money were the answer, if money really grew on trees, why not give more free money? Why not give it out all the time? Why stop at $600 a person? Why not $1,000? Why not $2,000?" Paul said sarcastically in a speech on the Senate floor Monday. Paul was one of just six senators to vote no on the bill.
After Trump's veto threat, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi agreed to hold a vote increasing the amount of the direct payment checks, tweeting, "Republicans repeatedly refused to say what amount the President wanted for direct checks. At last, the President has agreed to $2,000 — Democrats are ready to bring this to the Floor this week by unanimous consent. Let's do it!"
CNBC reported that House Democrats will seek to pass the larger direct payments on Christmas Eve.
Passage would put Senate Republicans in a bind, forcing them to decide whether to block the entire coronavirus relief bill, and a measure favored by Trump, because they want the direct payments to be less generous.
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) put the question plainly: "I've been calling for $2,000 checks since March. President Trump's on board — so let's get this done," he tweeted. "Is Mitch McConnell going to act or continue standing in the way of bigger stimulus checks for Americans?"
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.