The House on Monday passed legislation that would increase the amount of direct payments in the recently signed coronavirus relief package from $600 to $2,000.
The bill passed in a 275-134 vote, with support from more than 40 Republicans. It needed a two-thirds majority under the procedures that were used for consideration.
The measure faces an uphill battle in the GOP-controlled Senate. Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), a member of Senate Republican leadership, said last week that he didn’t think a bill to increase the stimulus checks to $2,000 could pass in the upper chamber.
But bringing up the measure on Monday allowed Democrats to force Republicans to take a recorded vote on an issue that is popular with Democratic lawmakers and the public and supported by President Trump.
The vote came after Trump last week criticized the relief package over the size of the direct payments, creating uncertainty about the fate of the legislation. When he ultimately signed the relief package on Sunday, Trump said in a statement that he “told Congress that I want far less wasteful spending and more money going to the American people in the form of $2,000 checks per adult and $600 per child.”
Trump brought up Monday’s previously planned House vote in his statement over the weekend and said the Senate would “start the process” for a vote that would increase the size of the direct payments to $2,000. However, a statement from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) issued Sunday made no mention of a Senate vote.
Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer (N.Y.) said Monday he would try to pass the House measure on Tuesday. His attempt is likely to be thwarted by Republicans, despite support from some GOP senators.
Monday's bill in the House, known as the CASH Act, would increase the size of payments for both eligible adults and children from $600 to $2,000. Individuals with income of up to $75,000 and married couples with income up to $150,000 would be eligible for the full amount. The amounts would decrease above those income thresholds.
The bill would also allow adult dependents, such as college students, disabled adults and elderly relatives, to be eligible for both $2,000 payments and the $500 payments authorized by the CARES Act in March.
The Joint Committee on Taxation estimated that the bill would cost about $464 billion. That’s on top of the $164 billion estimated cost of the $600 payments.
Democrats emphasized Trump’s support for $2,000 direct payments during the House floor debate on the bill Monday.
“The president of the United States has put this forth as something that he wants to see, in part of his signing the legislation yesterday,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said. “I hope that that view will be shared by the Republicans in the Senate.”
Republicans generally opposed the bill, expressing concerns about its impact on the deficit and arguing that the checks would not be well targeted.
“I recognize that today's CASH Act will pass with bipartisan support, Republicans and Democrats alike, and I respect the decision of each member of Congress,” Rep. Kevin Brady (Texas), the top Republican on the House Committee on Ways and Means, said on the floor ahead of the vote.
“But for me, I worry that this whopping $463 billion won't do what's needed, stimulate the economy, or get the jobless back to work.”
During the negotiations over the relief package, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin advocated for $600 checks as Republicans sought to keep the overall price tag of the relief package under $1 trillion.
Monday's vote did not fall completely along party lines.
Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.), a co-chair of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, said on Sunday that he was supporting the bill because “it is only fair that we act decisively now to deliver the comprehensive relief individuals desperately need.”
Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.), a member of the Blue Dog Coalition of centrist Democrats, called the bill “an ineffective and poorly targeted approach to aiding Americans in distress.”
Monday’s vote was the second time in recent days that House Democrats had attempted to bring up legislation to boost the size of the direct payments. On Thursday, they tried to do so by unanimous consent, but that effort was blocked by Republicans.
Despite GOP objections to the higher payments during Thursday's attempt to pass the increase via unanimous consent, leadership in both parties had said ahead of Monday’s vote that they expected the bill to meet the two-thirds threshold following the president’s comments.