Of late, the debate over a second round of COVID-19 stimulus checks has been overshadowed by the death of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. However, top leaders in Congress and the Trump administration have continued their rhetorical war over the possibility of giving Americans $1,200 or even $3,400 (for a family of four) checks.
First, the backdrop. For weeks, both Republicans and Democrats in Congress and President Trump himself have embraced the concept that Americans need a second round of checks. They’ve also agreed that the amount and guidelines should generally be the same as they were for the first round of checks when the pandemic started. However, both sides wanted to sweeten the pot on adult dependents to ensure that college students aren’t left out this time. That’s how you get to $3,400 in the Republican version for a family of four, and Democrats would go even higher than that (as would some alternate compromise plans floating around).
However, it all stopped there. With rhetoric. Stimulus checks were folded into the broader plan of stimulus relief and on that Republicans and Democrats can’t agree; they are about $1 trillion apart and disagreements over things like the amount of aid to give local and state governments have been fault lines. Republicans did split out a narrower version to try to ram that through, but it didn’t include stimulus checks, and Democrats immediately shot it down.
The election looming makes it less likely either side will reach an agreement because they may think they’re scoring political points against the other as Americans grow frustrated because they’re not getting needed checks.
Here’s what top leaders have said recently about stimulus relief and a second round of COVID-19 stimulus checks:
President Donald Trump & His Administration
Democrats are “heartless”. They don’t want to give STIMULUS PAYMENTS to people who desperately need the money, and whose fault it was NOT that the plague came in from China. Go for the much higher numbers, Republicans, it all comes back to the USA anyway (one way or another!).
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 16, 2020
President Trump has repeatedly gone on the record favoring stimulus checks, but he can’t get them done on his own because Congress gave funding authority in the U.S. Constitution. Trump has leveled barbs at Democrats for the inaction.
“Democrats are ‘heartless.’ They don’t want to give STIMULUS PAYMENTS to people who desperately need the money, and whose fault it was NOT that the plague came in from China. Go for the much higher numbers, Republicans, it all comes back to the USA anyway (one way or another!)” the president wrote on Twitter on Sept. 16.
"There is a compromise if @SpeakerPelosi is willing to move forward. I am somewhat concerned that she's afraid any deal would be good for the President," says Treasury Secretary @stevenmnuchin1. pic.twitter.com/d0cB1bCbfR
— Squawk Box (@SquawkCNBC) September 14, 2020
That same day, the White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows told Fox, “You’re going to see members of Congress leaving Washington, D.C. to go home and pretend like they’re working hard on this particular deal when, in fact, the checks are not going out to the American people and unemployment benefits will start to cease.”
Americans’ lives & livelihoods depend on Republicans abandoning their obsession with doing as little as possible while the coronavirus rages through our nation.
— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) September 16, 2020
The Democratic House leader has been sharply critical of Republicans.
“…the needs have only grown since May 15, four months ago,” Pelosi said, of the date that Democrats put forward their own plan. “The needs for the small businesses, for the restaurants, for transportation and the rest.”
On Sept. 16, she wrote on Twitter, “It’s encouraging to see that the President is now calling on Republicans to ‘go for the much higher numbers’ after months of Senate GOP efforts to shortchange Americans’ needs. We look forward hearing from his negotiators that they will finally meet us halfway. #FamiliesFirstNow.” But there didn’t seem to be much movement after that and the Supreme Court replacement battle has divided Republicans and Democrats more.
Pelosi released a statement with Senator Chuck Schumer that said, “By the end of the week, 200,000 Americans will have died from the coronavirus. The lives and livelihoods of the American people depend on Republicans abandoning their obsession with doing as little as possible while the coronavirus rages through our nation.”
Even Speaker Pelosi’s own House Democrats are sick of her blocking COVID-19 relief.
But she insists anything short of her multi-trillion wish list would make Democrats “a cheap date.” What a joke.
People are hurting. They need help. Not the Speaker's pointless political games.
— Leader McConnell (@senatemajldr) September 16, 2020
The Senate majority leader for Republicans has taken potshots at Democrats over stimulus relief.
“Even Speaker Pelosi’s own House Democrats are sick of her blocking COVID-19 relief,” he wrote on Twitter. “But she insists anything short of her multi-trillion wish list would make Democrats ‘a cheap date.’ What a joke. People are hurting. They need help. Not the Speaker’s pointless political games.”
He also accused Pelosi of “holding up relief for Americans.”