Congressional Leaders Agree on $900 Billion Pandemic Relief
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told fellow Republicans Wednesday that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s attempt to pass a bill boosting stimulus payments for individuals to US$2,000 will fail, according to a person who participated in a private call with GOP House members.
Pelosi swiftly took up President Donald Trump’s demand for larger payments to individuals in the coronavirus relief package Congress passed Monday night, seeking to approve it in the House on Thursday.
Pelosi’s plan to seek unanimous consent to increase the direct payments to US$2,000 from US$600 can be blocked by a single lawmaker. It wasn’t clear whether McCarthy himself planned to halt the attempt, or another GOP member or members.
Trump’s call for bigger checks came alongside a slew of complaints about the US$2.3 trillion bill enacted with big bipartisan support on Monday. The legislation wrapped US$900 billion in COVID-19 relief with US$1.4 trillion in government funding.
U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat from California, wears a protective mask while speaking during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Sunday, Dec. 20, 2020. Congressional leaders reached a deal on a roughly US$900 billion spending package to bolster the U.S. economy amid the continued coronavirus pandemic giving lawmakers a short timetable to review and pass the second largest economic-rescue measure in the nation's history.
Trump’s surprise demand for amendments cast doubt over whether he’d sign the bill. It’s unclear whether congressional Republicans would vote to override the president should he reject the legislation.
Pelosi said earlier Wednesday in a letter to House Democrats, “If the president truly wants to join us in US$2,000 payments, he should call upon Leader McCarthy to agree to our unanimous consent request.”
GOP lawmakers had resisted larger stimulus checks in an effort to hold the total cost of the pandemic package below US$1 trillion, citing concerns about a wider fiscal deficit.
The speaker also urged the president sign the legislation approved on Monday. Trump needs to sign it by Dec. 28 to avert a lapse in government funding after midnight that day.
“The entire country knows that it is urgent for the president to sign this bill, both to provide the coronavirus relief and to keep government open,” Pelosi said in her letter.
Before the McCarthy comment to Republicans, Pelosi said she planned to convene the House in a pro-forma session at 9 a.m. Thursday.
If her unanimous-consent request is blocked, the speaker and her lieutenants would then need to decide whether they want to the bring it before the entire House for a roll-call vote.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a Republican from California, speaks during a news conference outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Dec. 10, 2020. Senate Majority Leader McConnell and House Speaker Pelosi have given no sign yet that they’re ready to directly engage in negotiations to sort through competing pandemic relief proposals -- a step that many lawmakers say will be necessary to complete a deal this month.
Economic data on Wednesday underscored the need for help, with Americans’ incomes tumbling 1.1 per cent in November -- far worse than economists had anticipated, and the second straight drop. Initial filings for jobless claims held above 800,000 in the most recent week, more than quadruple where they were in late January.
Stocks largely shrugged off the news on the complications in Washington and on the economy. The S&P 500 Index closed up 0.1 per cent in lighter-than-usual pre-holiday trading, halting a three-day slump.
Pelosi separately plans to take up next week an effort to override Trump’s veto of the national defense authorization act. The NDAA passed with large bipartisan majorities, as did Monday’s spending bill, putting the president at odds with members of his own party in Congress.
--With assistance from Josh Wingrove.