The $2,000 stimulus checks blocked by the Republican-controlled Senate in December are gaining steam after Democrats won Georgia’s two Senate seats and will control the chamber.
“One of the first things that I want to do when our new senators are seated is deliver the $2,000 checks to the American families,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who will soon become the majority leader, said at a press conference on Wednesday.
The $2,000 direct payments would be an increase from the $600 direct payments currently being distributed, meaning that eligible Americans would potentially receive an additional $1,400 (as well as an additional for $1,400 each dependent), based on the legislation passed by the House in late December.
Both of the Democratic candidates, Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, have supported the $2,000 checks and campaigned on it. President-elect Joe Biden who supported the candidates in Georgia on Monday said “their election will put an end to the block in Washington.”
“That $2000 stimulus check, that money would go out the door immediately, to help people who are in real trouble,” Biden said. “Think about what it will mean to your lives, putting food on the table, paying rent.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) who introduced the $2,000 direct payment provision and requested a Senate vote on it twice — with both attempts blocked for a vote by the GOP — also welcomed the unfolding Georgia results.
“Promises made must be kept,” Sanders tweeted on Wednesday. “That means not only the $2,000 direct payment, but an aggressive agenda that recognizes the economic desperation facing so many Americans.”
The slim majority the Democrats would have in the Senate would allow them to put stimulus legislation for a vote, but they would still need 60 votes — as a filibuster is likely — to pass such legislation, meaning 10 Republicans must sign on.
“It definitely makes it much easier to at least get a stimulus bill on the Senate floor,” Mark Harkins, a former congressional staffer and senior fellow at Georgetown’s Government Affairs Institute, told Yahoo Money. “Majority Leader McConnell seemed to be the main impediment to that.”
‘A precarious balancing act’
President Trump demanded the amount of the stimulus checks to be increased from $600 to $2,000 in December, holding up the $900 billion stimulus deal for three days before signing it into law. That same month, the House overwhelmingly passed legislation to increase the direct payments to $2,000 in the original bill.
While Democratic leaders vocally support more stimulus checks, they have not yet said whether they’ll seek to include the provision in a bigger stimulus deal or try to pass it as a standalone legislation.
“The difficulty is, it won't be just the $2,000 [checks] but some amount of money, additional to the stimulus. There were a whole lot of other things that Democrats left out,” Harkins said. “There is still a precarious balancing act that a presumptive leader Schumer would have to work through to get a bill through.”
A standalone stimulus check legislation may be easier to pass the Senate and gather the needed 60 votes as numerous Republican senators have supported the provision. But Democrats may want to add aid for state and local governments in the next potential relief bill after compromising and excluding the provision from the most recent stimulus deal.
But a bill with a higher price tag and such provisions could mean less support from Republican lawmakers. The GOP previously characterized state and local aid as a “blue state bailout,” but that could change when a bill is vote is in front of them, Harkins said.
“That was a great talking point for keeping it off the floor,” he said. “But once it actually comes for a vote and senators have to explain why Republican Party senators are denying aid to their states, that'll be more of a difficult thing.”