The 12-minute session “morphed into unconvincing theater…”
House Republicans on Thursday blocked a bid by Democrats to pass President Donald Trump’s call for $2,000 direct payments to most Americans as part of a COVID-19 relief bill.
In a $900 billion bipartisan bill passed Monday, millions of Americans are set to receive $600 from the federal government, half the amount they received after the first relief bill was passed in March. Trump has implied that he might veto the bill and called for $2,000 checks.
Democrats control the House and convened for a pro forma session on Thursday morning. The 12-minute session “morphed into unconvincing theater in response to Trump’s veto musings about the package, which was negotiated by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Trump’s behalf,” the Associated Press reported. “House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, the No. 2 House Democrat, sought the unanimous approval of all House members to pass the bill, but GOP leader Kevin McCarthy, who was not present in the nearly-empty chamber, denied his approval and the effort fizzled.”
In response to Hoyer, Rep. Rob Wittman (R-VA) tried to reopen debate on foreign aid included in a companion bill, but that also failed, due to Democrats blocking the effort.
The government will shut down on Tuesday if Trump doesn’t sign the bill or if Congress doesn’t approve a short-term funding measure. Hoyer said that won’t happen.
“We’re not going to let the government shut down, nor are we going to let the American people down,” Hoyer said. “There are continuing discussions going on between the speaker, and the secretary of the Treasury, and the administration.”
Prior to the Thursday session, McCarthy slammed the Democrats, accusing them of “selective hearing” after Trump’s call for increasing the amount of the stimulus checks.
“Democrats appear to be suffering from selective hearing,” McCarthy tweeted Wednesday evening, along with an open letter. “They’ve conveniently ignored @realDonaldTrump’s call to reexamine tax dollars wasted overseas while so many Americans are struggling at home. Republicans will act to put America first.”
In the letter, McCarthy stated that Republicans had tried to pass coronavirus relief more than 40 times, but were repeatedly blocked because Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was playing politics.
“Americans have needed relief from the coronavirus and lockdowns for months. House Republicans have attempted to pass relief over forty times but each time, Speaker Pelosi has ignored our fellow citizens, saying ‘nothing is better than something,’” McCarthy wrote. “Worse than that, by waiting days before Christmas, Speaker Pelosi tried to use the American people as leverage to make coronavirus relief contingent on government funding — which includes billions of foreign aid at a time when there are urgent needs at home.”
“Our government’s top priority must be our families, communities, and small businesses as we get through this pandemic and restore our country,” he continued. “House 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 spent overseas while so many of our neighbors at home are struggling to make ends meet. Thus, Republicans will offer a unanimous consent request to revisit the State and Foreign Operations title of the Omnibus so that we can fully address the concerns at hand.”
When the first relief bill passed, the Internal Revenue Service cut 153.1 million checks and direct deposits all the way through August, totaling $269.3 billion, the AP reported.
The payments began rolling out in mid-April, about two weeks after the bill was passed. More than 81 million payments were disbursed within weeks, totaling more than $147 billion, all through electronic transfers to recipients’ bank accounts, according to the Government Accountability Office.
In August, as lawmakers continued to debate more direct payments to Americans, Mnuchin said the federal government could roll out new checks the week after Congress passed a bill. “We did it the first time — I can get out 50 million payments really quickly, a lot of it into people’s direct accounts,” Mnuchin told reporters then.
But fewer Americans will receive the checks this time around, Fox News reports.
“American adults who earned less than $75,000 in 2019 will receive the full $600 check, while couples who earned less than $150,000 will receive $1,200. The payments will be tapered for higher-earners (5% of the amount by which their adjusted gross incomes exceeded the initial threshold) and phased out completely for individuals who earn more than $87,000 and couples who earn more than $174,000,” Fox wrote.
Dependents under the age of 17 are also eligible for $600 payments, which means an eligible family of four could receive as much as $2,400.
“People are going to see this money [at] the beginning of next week,” Mnuchin said during an interview this week with CNBC. “Much needed relief — and just in time for the holidays.”
This article has been expanded to include quotes from McCarthy’s letter.