Democrats say they will vote on a new $2,000 check proposal on Monday

Pandemic Relief Deal Near As Lawmakers End Fed Impasse
U.S. Capitol
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House Republicans have blocked a bill that would send $2,000 checks to millions of Americans, a measure that would have amended the pandemic stimulus bill passed earlier this week by Congress.

On Monday, Congress passed a $900 billion stimulus package (part of a $2.3 trillion government funding deal) that would send up-to $600 checks to American households and help businesses grappling with the economic toll of the coronavirus pandemic.

The package was sent to President Donald Trump on Monday, who early reports suggested would sign it imminently, giving Americans access to the funds as early as next week.

Instead, the president issued a four-minute video on Tuesday in which he called the bill a "disgrace" and demanded that direct payments to Americans be up to $2,000.

"I'm asking Congress to amend this bill and increase the ridiculously low $600 to $2,000 or $4,000 for a couple," Trump said.

The president added that he'd also like to see the package whittled down, so that it no longer contained "wasteful" spending.

Republicans were immediately forced to grapple with the fact that the president had thrown a wrench into a stimulus package they had voted for, putting Trump at odds with his own party.

The New York Times reported that House Republicans expressed their frustrations with the president in a private conference call on Wednesday. At least one lawmaker worried that it would be a tremendous challenge to offer people less than half of what the president publicly called for.

“I don’t know if we recover from this,” North Carolina Rep. Virginia Foxx said, according to the Times. “We will have a hell of a time getting this out of people’s head.”

Democrats, meanwhile, seized on the president's comments, arguing that they had demanded larger checks all along and would be happy to amend the bill to allow Americans access to larger payments.

On Thursday, Democrat Richard Neal introduced an amendment to the larger stimulus package, which would "increase recovery rebate amounts to $2,000 for individuals."

The bill was blocked by Republican Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who wrote in a letter to House colleagues that Democrats "have conveniently ignored the concerns expressed by the President ... 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."

McCarthy mentioned nothing in his letter about including larger payments in the package, per the president's request.

In a statement released Thursday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi lambasted Republicans for "obstructing" the measure, saying there will be a full House vote on the bill next week.

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

The statement continued: "On Monday, I will bring the House back to session where we will hold a recorded vote on our stand-alone bill to increase economic impact payments to $2,000 ... Hopefully by then the President will have already signed the bipartisan and bicameral legislation to keep government open and to deliver coronavirus relief.”

Trump still hasn't vetoed the package outright, but he did say "the next administration will have to deliver a COVID relief package" if he isn't sent a more suitable bill.

In addition to direct cash payments, the stimulus bill would also extend unemployment benefits for millions. Those benefits are set to expire the day after Christmas.

The larger spending package to which the stimulus bill is attached would avert a government shutdown.

As The New York Times notes, if the president doesn't sign the bill by Jan. 3, it will die with Congress.

Trump is currently in Palm Beach, spending the holiday at his members-only Mar-a-Lago resort.