House Democrats are planning to request unanimous consent this week to approve sending one-time $2,000 direct payments to most Americans after President Donald Trump late Tuesday attacked the recently passed $900 billion coronavirus relief bill as a "disgrace" and suggested he might not sign the legislation if it isn't amended to include bigger checks.
Almost immediately after Trump's remarks—made in a video posted to Twitter on Tuesday night—Democratic lawmakers and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) embraced the president's call for $2,000 payments, with many noting that they've been demanding such relief for months. In May, Sanders teamed up with Sens. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) to propose $2,000 monthly payments to most Americans for the duration of the coronavirus crisis.
Last week, as Common Dreams reported, members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus demanded "direct payments of at least $2,000" as part of the new relief package, which was paired with government funding legislation that the president must sign to avert a shutdown on December 29. Trump had reportedly considered pushing for $2,000 checks during negotiations over the new package—which also includes an extension of soon-to-expire unemployment benefits—before backing off at the last minute.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) tweeted in the wake of Trump's video Tuesday that "Democrats are ready to bring this to the floor this week by unanimous consent." One aide told CNN that Democrats are planning the unanimous consent vote for Thursday.
"Republicans repeatedly refused to say what amount the president wanted for direct checks. At last, the president has agreed to $2,000," said Pelosi. "Let's do it!"
Two hours after Trump posted the video, which reportedly "stunned" many of his advisers, Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) tweeted out an amendment that would replace the $600 payments currently in the relief legislation with one-time $2,000 payments to most Americans.
"Glad to see the president is willing to support our legislation," said Ocasio-Cortez. "We can pass $2,000 checks this week if the Senate GOP agrees to stand down."
Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), and other CPC members backed the amendment.
"People's lives are at stake," said Pressley. "Survival checks now."
The Progressive Caucus has been calling for monthly $2000 checks for the duration of the pandemic since March!
This is a no-brainer. Let’s do it. https://t.co/pN6dxkB3dW
— Progressive Caucus (@USProgressives) December 23, 2020
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) quickly threw his support behind the amendment offered by Tlaib and Ocasio-Cortez, tweeting, "Let's not get bogged down with ideological offsets and unrelated items and just DO THIS! The American people deserve it."
"I'm in. Whaddya say, Mitch?" Schumer added.
Passing the $2,000 payments amendment by unanimous consent will be highly difficult, given that just one member can object and block the effort—as Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) did, twice, when Sanders and Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) tried to pass $1,200 checks last week.
If the unanimous consent request fails, as it most likely will, progressive observers urged Pelosi to bring House members back for a full vote on the payments.
"Doing it by 'unanimous consent' means any one member can block it," tweeted Adam Jentleson, public affairs director at Democracy Forward. "The House should actually bring a clean $2k checks bill to the floor, pass it, and send it to the Senate. Do it with the intent of getting people more aid, not just as a stunt."
Dem leaders caught with their pants down a little bit since they never really tried to leverage Trump’s support for big checks. They embraced the bipartisan bill as soon as it was released, which had no checks. Then they traded away state aid. But this is a second chance- use it! https://t.co/o3uxSnU9JC
— Adam Jentleson (@AJentleson) December 23, 2020
In the Republican-controlled Senate, "Schumer can start demanding unanimous consent to pass the $2,000 check legislation every day the body is in session—a process that would have the added benefit of putting the heat on Georgia incumbent Republican Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue to pick which side they are on," noted The Daily Poster's David Sirota, Andrew Perez, and Walker Bragman.
Appearing on CNN following Trump's demand Tuesday night, Jon Ossoff—Perdue's Democratic opponent—said Trump is correct to demand $2,000 checks.
"President Trump is as ever erratic and all over the place, but on this point, tonight, he's right: $600 is a joke," said Ossoff. "They should send $2,000 checks to the American people right now because people are hurting."
Noting that Perdue "opposed even the first round of $1,200 checks" provided under the CARES Act, Ossoff added that Congress "should pass $2,000 checks, they should have done it two months ago."