The US House of Representatives voted 275 to 134 to send $2,000 stimulus checks to Americans rather than the $600 checks originally included in the COVID-19 relief package which President Trump signed Sunday Night.
This was in addition to the omnibus government spending bill to fund the government through September 2021. The revised legislation will still need to pass the Republican controlled Senate and be signed by the President to take effect.
The House bill was introduced by Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA). It is just a few pages long and changes the text in the COVID relief bill the President signed Sunday night, from $600 payments to $2,000. House speaker Nancy Pelosi set the vote as a "suspension" measure, meaning that it needed a two-thirds supermajority vote to pass.
As with the CARES act passed earlier this year, there are income thresholds that will determine who will receive the new stimulus payments. The legislation includes individuals earning up to $75,000, or $150,000 for married couples.
Qualifying households with children will be eligible for an additional $600 per dependent. Individuals earning more than $87,000, or $174,000 for married couples, will not be eligible for payments. Under the CARES Act, eligible Americans received $1,200 checks per qualifying individual.
The bill will also extend unemployment benefits, extend eviction protection, provide rental assistance, and add additional funding to the Small Business Administration's Paycheck Protection Program and invest in vaccine distribution.
Before the new payment amount was negotiated, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had said that stimulus checks could begin hitting bank accounts within about a week. Individuals with direct deposit information on file with the IRS will receive their payments quicker than those who receive prepaid debit cards or checks.
Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) tweeted last week that she and several other senators had worked to guarantee that veterans, social security and supplemental security income beneficiaries would receive their payments, which had been difficult with the CARES act.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said Sunday that he will aim to quickly pass the $2,000 checks through the Senate should it pass the House.
Passage of the bill through the Republican controlled Senate might be difficult if there is continued opposition from conservative members such as Ted Cruz and Rand Paul. Both have opposed the payments and government waste in the bill.
The Monday vote did not address the "wasteful spending" that Trump decried the day after the bill passed the House, on Dec, 22. The Monday supermajority vote forced House members to go on the record on whether to increase the price tag of the stimulus checks after the President demanded they do so. The increase was backed by many progressive Democrats such as Reps. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI).
Trump had originally sent a "redlined version" of the bill back to Congress, giving an "item by item" breakdown of formal "rescission" requests and asking that any of the "wasteful items" be removed from the bill.
"I will sign the Omnibus and Covid package with a strong message that makes clear to Congress that wasteful items need to be removed. I will send back to Congress a redlined version, item by item, accompanied by the formal rescission request to Congress insisting that those funds be removed from the bill," Trump said.
"I am signing this bill to restore unemployment benefits, stop evictions, provide rental assistance, add money for PPP, return our airline workers back to work, add substantially more money for vaccine distribution, and much more."
Trump had initially resisted the $900 billion coronavirus relief bill passed by Congress on Dec. 21, which was accompanied by a $2.3 trillion year end, omnibus spending package. At the time, the president had called the relief bill a "disgrace" and claimed it had "...almost nothing to do with COVID."
Chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee Rep. Nita M. Lowey (D-NY) issued a statement Sunday night that her committee's Democratic majority plan to deny the president's rescissions.
The US equity markets hit record highs Monday morning on news that the President had signed the original bills. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up by 170 points, while the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq Composite were up 0.7 percent and 0.87 percent, respectively.