The House on Monday passed a bill replacing the $600 stimulus checks in the newly enacted virus relief bill with $2,000 payments, as Democrats and moderate Republicans voted in favor of a proposal backed by President Donald Trump.
The bill cleared the chamber on a 275 to 134 vote, reaching the two-thirds majority needed for the expedited procedure used Monday.
It now heads to the Senate where it will create a political dilemma for Republicans. Many of them previously opposed stimulus payments larger than the $600 in the existing law, in part over concerns about the price tag. Bumping the payments to $2,000 would cost roughly $464 billion. But Trump’s stamp of approval still has sway with GOP voters.
In addition to increasing the payment amounts and the income cutoff to receive a check, the House measure would expand the eligibility of household members who can get the money, allowing adult dependents, as well as child dependents, to receive the payments. Currently, just children of adults under the income caps qualify for the payments.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell hasn’t said whether the Senate would take up the House bill, attempt to vote on a different measure that would also increase direct payments or simply ignore the issue. Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer is urging Republicans to bring up a clean bill, like the House measure, to increase the payments to $2,000. Schumer is expected to seek unanimous consent to pass the House bill on Tuesday and to be blocked in that effort.
A vote against the increased payments would put Senate Republicans at odds with the leader of their party and on record against a politically popular idea, in a week that Republicans are trying to remain unified ahead of two crucial runoff elections in Georgia that will determine control of the Senate.
“I worry that this whopping $463 billion won’t do what’s needed, stimulate the economy or help workers get back to work,” Representative Kevin Brady, a Texas Republican said before the House vote. “It’s hard to stimulate the economy that is locked down by local politicians.”