The U.S. House of Representatives approved President Donald Trump's demand for $2,000 COVID-19 relief payments in cash on Monday, setting up a confrontation with the Senate Republicans who largely oppose the increased pay checks. The measure was voted 275-134 in Democrat-controlled Congress.
The move came even as the U.S. Treasury Department is preparing to give away the first wave of $600 stimulus checks to U.S. individuals and households as early as this week.
Monday's development marked a rare point of agreement between President Trump and the Democrats. The side with the majority in House had always wanted to increase the pay checks from $600 to $2000. Despite significant opposition from the Republican ranks, President Trump decided to support the popular measure in the dying days of his presidency.
The fate of the bill in the Senate is uncertain. In the House, a total of 130 Republicans, 2 independents and two Democrats opposed raising pay checks to $2000.
Higher Checks to Cost $464 Billion More
In the Senate the opposition will be stiffer. Republicans fear that the increased pay checks will add further strain on the coronavirus stimulus package. According to the Joint Committee on Taxation, the increase in the checks would cost $464 billion more.
The Senate is set to convene on Tuesday. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell welcomed President Trump's move but he did not say anything about a Senate vote on the proposal. On the other hand, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said he press for the passage of the bill seeking higher stimulus checks.
Throwing the ball into the Republicans' court, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said: "Republicans have a choice, vote for this legislation, or vote to deny the American people the bigger paychecks that they need."
Biden too responded, saying he supported the increased pay checks to individuals. The Republican Senators who are facing a crucial run-off election in Georgia, Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, also welcomed Trump's move.
Earlier, Trump signed the $2.3 trillion package into law after threatening to hold it up. The president, who has not officially conceded to President-elect Joe Biden, finally agreed to sign the bill in the face of a looming government shutdown. The $2.3 trillion package is inclusive of $1.4 trillion for government agencies and $892 billion in COVID-19 relief. The coronavirus pandemic has killed more than 330,000 people in the United States so far.
House Overrides Defense Bill Veto
Meanwhile, dealing a blow to Trump, the Democrats in the House voted to override Trump's veto of a separate $740 billion defense policy bill. The rebuke, in Trump's final weeks in office, would be the first veto override of his presidency if seconded by the Senate this week.
The House voted 322-87 to override the veto. If the Senate upholds the line, this will lead to the first override in Trump's presidency. The President had rejected the defense bill last week on the grounds that it did not limit the powers of the 'biased' social media companies.
The defense bill, which is also known as the National Defense Authorization Act, approves more than $740 billion in military programs and construction besides authorizing a 3 percent pay raises for U.S. troops.