Second Stimulus Check Is Sticking Point for Bipartisan Deal

Divisions over a second round of stimulus checks to Americans could be a sticking point in agreeing another economic relief package before President-elect Joe Biden takes office.

The proposed COVID-19 economic relief bill would contain a $908 billion aid package and around $300 more in weekly federal unemployment benefits but it would not involve another $1,200 direct payment. Tens of millions of Americans received checks in April.

However, there is some bipartisan support for a second round of direct payments. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has suggested he may not support the stimulus bill without checks to families. Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has said the same.

Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib said on Twitter on Monday that she would also oppose the bill if it did not include checks.

"I will not vote for a #COVID19 relief bill with no stimulus check," Tlaib wrote. "It stops being a relief bill when it doesn't help people survive this crisis. #DirectCashRelief."

Republican Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri has also said he would like to see stimulus checks and could oppose the bipartisan bill. In an interview on Monday, Hawley described a recent conversation on the issue with President Donald Trump.

"I said, 'I think it's vital that any relief include direct payments, and I'm not gonna vote for it if it doesn't," Hawley said. "And I also urged him to veto any bill that did not have direct payments in it."

"We had a good conversation about it. And, you know, a pretty thorough conversation," the Republican went on. "He asked a number of questions about the state of play of the different proposals. And I think it's fair to say that he was surprised at the direction that some of these were headed."

Hawley's Democratic colleague Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts joined in the criticism of the proposed relief bill on Monday, backing another issue of direct payments.

"I am very worried that the dollar amount is too low, people need help," Warren said. "Folks who've been getting an extra $600 of unemployment relief are barely making it. Cutting that in half, does not make their lives easier."

"Direct checks are an excellent way to get money into the hands of people who desperately need it," she said.

Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, the second-highest ranking Democrat, said that not including stimulus checks was necessary to secure bipartisan agreement as Republicans are seeking to limit the cost of the relief package.

"The $1,200 check, it cost we believe nationally $300 billion to give you an idea," Durbin said. "The Democrats have always wanted a larger number, but we were told we couldn't get anything through the Republicans, except this $900 billion level."

Any further round of stimulus checks may have to wait until Biden becomes president. Two runoff elections in Georgia on January 5 will decide control of the Senate and Democratic victories in both races could make a larger relief package next year more likely.

House Financial Services Committee Member Rashida Tlaib
House Financial Services Committee member Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) questions Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg during a hearing in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill October 23, 2019 in Washington, DC. Tlaib has said she will oppose a new stimulus bill that doesn't include checks to Americans. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images