The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives narrowly passed a bill Monday evening to increase direct coronavirus relief payments to some people to $2,000, though the measure faces an uphill battle in the Republican-run Senate, despite support from President Donald Trump.
The legislation would increase the $600 in direct payments to those who earned less than $75,000 last year to $2,000. Because the bill was brought up using an expedited procedure, it required a two-thirds majority to pass. It passed 275 to 134, just two votes more than the 273 needed.
Trump insisted on increasing the payments after his administration struck a deal for the $600 checks as part of a coronavirus relief and government spending package, which passed both chambers of Congress last week and which his administration helped to negotiate.
“I simply want to get our great people $2,000, rather than the measly $600 that is now in the bill,” the president tweeted over the weekend from his Florida resort.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., applauded the vote later Monday, saying, “The House and the President are in agreement: we must deliver $2,000 checks to American families struggling this Holiday Season.”
Trump cited the scheduled House vote in a statement Sunday announcing that he had finally signed the $2.3 trillion Covid-19 relief and government funding package.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said he would try to pass the bill by unanimous consent on Tuesday — a procedure that would allow the bill to advance only if there are no objections.
“Every Senate Democrat is for it, but unfortunately, we don’t have the Republicans on board,” Schumer told reporters ahead of Monday’s vote, before urging Trump to change that dynamic.
“These Senate Republicans have followed you through thick and thin. Get them now to act and to support the $2,000 checks,” Schumer said.
The $600 payments are still expected to be made as early as the end of this week despite Trump’s delay, a senior Treasury Department official told NBC News. Checks might clear the following Monday, due to the federal and bank holiday on Friday.
If the Senate also green-lights the $2,000 stimulus checks, Americans who have already received the original $600 will receive a second deposit of $1,400 to bring them to the $2,000 total.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., praised Trump for signing the bill on Sunday night, but made no mention of a possible vote on the additional relief in his statement.
Roy Blunt of Missouri, chairman of the Senate Republican Policy Committee, told reporters last week that even if the measure came up for a vote in the Senate, it would not reach the 60-vote threshold needed for passage.
But at least one Senate Republican, Marc Rubio of Florida, indicated he would support the additional payments.
“I share many of my colleagues’ concern about the long-term effects of additional spending, but we cannot ignore the fact that millions of working class families across the nation are still in dire need of relief,” Rubio said in a statement on Monday.
In a statement on Sunday night, Pelosi urged the president to “immediately call on congressional Republicans to end their obstruction and to join him and Democrats in support of our stand-alone legislation to increase direct payment checks to $2,000.”
“Every Republican vote against this bill is a vote to deny the financial hardship that families face and to deny the American people the relief they need,” Pelosi said.
Josh Lederman contributed.