UPDATE: Senate Majority Leader Shoots Down Democratic-led Request on $2,000 Stimulus, Measure Hangs in Limbo


Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on December 29 shot down a Democratic request to fulfill President Donald Trump’s ask for increased direct coronavirus payments to Americans from $600 to $2,000, according to published reports. Though, the measure’s final fate in the GOP-controlled chamber is unclear, the report added.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., moved to pass the bill unanimously, which means it would advance if other senators did not object. But McConnell objected to the measure.

The House of Representatives recently approved the CASH Act, a proposal to increase stimulus checks to $2,000. The Act was moved to the US Senate, according to a published report. This comes one day after President Donald Trump signed a $900 billion stimulus bill into law, the House of Representatives voted to increase direct payments to eligible Americans from $600 to $2,000 per person.

The vote won the Democratic caucus by a 231-2 margin, Republicans voted 44-130 and independents voted 0-2.

On December 27, Trump signed the stimulus bill into law, which released a $900 billion in emergency relief funds and averting a Tuesday government shutdown, according to a Washington Post article. White House officials didn’t say exactly why Trump changed his mind of not wanting to sign the bill which he called earlier a “disgrace” but those hardest hit financially by the pandemic are glad for it. Trump signed the bill during his vacation in Florida and on a weekend when he had allowed unemployment benefits for 14 million Americans to expire, according to the Washington Post.

According to the Economic Policy Institute [EPI] article, in the first quarter of 2020, Black workers had the highest unemployment rate nationally, at 6.3%, following by Hispanic workers (at 4.8%), white workers (at 3.1%), and Asian workers (at 2.9%), per the EPI article.

The Black unemployment rate was at or below its pre-recession level in 17 states (these data are available for 21 states and for the District of Columbia), according to EPI. 

Trump had demanded changes to the stimulus and spending package for a week, implying he would refuse to sign it unless his demands were met. His actions concerned lawmakers on both sides of the aisle over the weekend, which they worried about what the implications of a government shutdown during a pandemic could mean, according to the article. 

After Trump signed the bill into law, Democrats went for him and said his decision to drag the process out for days was not good for the many Americans relying on it. 

“The President’s pointless delay in approving the relief legislation cost millions of Americans a week’s worth of pandemic-related unemployment assistance that they desperately need,” House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard E. Neal (D-Mass.) said in the Washington Post article. “His stalling only intensified anxiety and hardship for workers and families who are collateral damage in his political games. Now, people will need to wait even longer for direct payments and other vital assistance to arrive.”

The government would have shut down on Tuesday if Trump hadn’t acted. In addition to containing money to fund government operations, the spending package also includes emergency relief money that finances a new round of stimulus checks, unemployment aid, and small-business financial assistance, among other things. 

Before he signed the bill, Trump released a video on Tuesday demanding changes, including that that the bill should have authorized stimulus checks of $2,000 per person instead of the $600 payments. Trump also wanted spending cuts to be included in the package, a concern he hadn’t raised until after Congress passed the bill, per the article. 

The consequences of not signing the bill into law would have been felt virtually everywhere in America. If the bill wasn’t signed into law by Tuesday, hundreds of thousands of federal employees would have been sent home without pay, per the article. And even the many federal employees who would have continued to work because they are deemed “essential,” such as members of the military, would not have been paid until a new funding bill is created. If a government shutdown on Tuesday is not bad enough, eviction protections for millions of Americans would have ended later this week; more than 14 million people would be losing unemployment benefits; and no stimulus checks would be issued, per the article. Failing to sign the bill into law would have also frozen new money for vaccine distribution, small-business aid, the ailing airline industry, and school aid, among other things. 

Earlier on Sunday, lawmakers discussed a mix of frustration and anger that Trump had not signaled publicly what he planned to do. 

“I understand he wants to be remembered for advocating for big checks, but the danger is he’ll be remembered for chaos and misery and erratic behavior if he allows this to expire,” Sen. Patrick J. Toomey (R-Pa.) said on Fox News on Sunday, according to the article. “So I think the best thing to do, as I [said], sign this and then make the case for subsequent legislation.”  

Millions of American families who have lost their jobs during the pandemic and are still struggling didn’t have much of an option on waiting for Trump’s call. Deseree and Matthew Cox have had almost zero income since August, when Matthew Cox, 38, was let go from his management job in pest control. His application for unemployment benefits from the state of Florida has never made it through the system’s line. The $300 per week Matthew Cox scrapes together driving for DoorDash hardly makes a dent covering bills, rent, and food for themselves and their two children with special needs, according to the article. The Coxes have emptied out their savings and moved from South Florida to the Indianapolis area for a cheaper cost of living and to be near family who could help with the children. But they say they need the extended unemployment benefits, rental assistance, extended eviction moratoriums, and direct payments promised by the stimulus package. 

At one point, Deseree, 37, said she couldn’t afford a medication her son needs “just for him to be able to function.” “People will die without this money,” Deseree said. “People will get evicted. People will not be able to get their medication. To [lawmakers], $600 or $2,000, it seems so little. But to the American people right now, it’s just everything.” 

The 5,593-page bill that Trump now has signed was introduced on Dec. 21 and approved by the House and Senate later that day with major support in both chambers. The Senate passed the measure by a 92-to-6 margin. 

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