Washington, Dec 28 (efe-epa).- The Democratic majority in the US House of Representatives on Monday approved increasing from $600 to $2,000 the direct deposit payments to Americans included in the stimulus relief package, something that a number of Republicans opposed despite the fact that outgoing President Donald Trump had demanded that increase.
In a 275-134 vote, the House approved increasing the payment amounts to more than triple the original figure and sent the bill on to the Senate, where it is not clear whether the Republican majority there will support that increase despite Trump’s demand.
To approve the increase, the House needed the support of two-thirds of its members, and thus the backing of a number of GOP lawmakers was required.
During the session, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, called on Republicans to vote in favor of the change to help families who have been hard hit by the pandemic and have lost their jobs or are facing other economic difficulties.
“The president must immediately call on congressional Republicans to end their obstruction and to join him and Democrats in support of our stand-alone legislation to increase direct payment checks to $2,000, which will be brought to the Floor tomorrow,” Pelosi had said Sunday evening after Trump signed the stimulus bill.
“Every Republican vote against this bill is a vote to deny the financial hardship that families face and to deny the American people the relief they need,” Pelosi added at the time.
And on Monday before the vote, Pelosi urged Republican congresspeople to vote for the change that she said had strong bipartisan support, adding that not doing so would be to deny the economic challenges facing the American people.
After refusing to sign the bill for five days, on Sunday Trump finally backed away from his earlier stonewalling and attached his signature to the bill, known as an omnibus bill, valued at $2.3 trillion and including a stimulus package of $900 billion to help alleviate the economic damage caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
That rescue plan contains direct payments of $600 to all Americans with an annual income less than $75,000, but the president and Democratic lawmakers wanted the final direct payment figure to be $2,000.
Trump had initially called the $600 figure “ridiculously low.”
Paradoxically, Trump and the Democrats are in agreement on increasing the payout, but Republicans are divided. Some support the increase as an idea widely popular among Americans and others are sticking firmly with their party’s longstanding tradition of so-called fiscal discipline and control of public spending, even though this is a tradition that GOP lawmakers have broken time and again.
In addition, this division in the Republican ranks forces GOP lawmakers to decide whether or not they will challenge the outgoing president, something that could have consequences for the two special elections for Georgia Senate seats on Jan. 5, both seats currently being held by Republicans who are running for reelection but where Democrats stand a decent chance of flipping them into the Democratic column, just as they did in the popular vote in Georgia during the Nov. 3 presidential election.
On Jan. 5, Georgia voters will select who will represent them in the US Senate and the results of those two races will determine which party holds the majority in the upper house. If Democrats manage to win both seats, they will hold a majority in the Senate, but if Republicans are able to hang on to just one of the seats, they will retain the majority they have enjoyed for a number of years.
The two Republican candidates, David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, are trying to maintain a complicated balance by supporting Trump but without actually stating whether they are in favor of increasing the direct payments.
The US Senate will vote on Tuesday on whether or not to increase the direct payments from $600 to $2,000.