WASHINGTON, D.C. — On, Thursday, Democrats in the House of Representatives attempted to increase direct payments to Americans included in the stimulus bill from $600 to $2,000 per person.
This was a request made by President Trump. Trump’s fellow Republicans blocked that effort.
Republicans opposed the higher amount and instead sought to change the amount of foreign aid included in the spending bill attached to the stimulus bill, another one of Trump’s complaints. Democrats blocked that request. The House then adjourned for the day.
The standoff between the two parties now puts desperately needed assistance for millions of Americans in limbo. Instead of distributing such assistance, there is now a chance of a partial government shutdown.
The proposed $892 billion coronavirus aid package passed by Congress on Monday was already criticized by some Democrats as not big enough to address a pandemic that has killed nearly 320,000 Americans.
Trump called for larger stimulus checks on Tuesday and criticized funding for foreign countries, including Israel, and various U.S. institutions like the Smithsonian included in a 5,000-plus page omnibus spending bill attached to the coronavirus relief package.
“It is Christmas Eve. But it is not a silent night. All is not calm, and for too many, nothing is bright,” said U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Dearborn). “Donald Trump doesn’t give a damn about people. He’s sowing fear and tossing kerosene on a fire.
“This morning, we gave House Republicans a chance to provide Americans with $2,000 survival checks this holiday season and they turned their backs. It was shameful behavior that would make Scrooge proud.”
House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy said on Thursday Democrats should be willing to address foreign aid and other elements of the bill that conservatives have called wasteful pork spending.
“House Democrats appear to be suffering from selective hearing,” he said in a letter to other House Republicans.
It is unclear if or when Trump will sign the current package, with those $600 payments, into law. Without his signature, unemployment benefits for those thrown out of work by the pandemic are due to expire as soon as Saturday, and the U.S. government will be forced into a partial shutdown starting on Tuesday.
Congress could keep the government running by passing a fourth stopgap funding bill before midnight on Monday, with cooperation from President Trump.