President Donald J. Trump once again affirmed his desire to see a second round of direct-payment stimulus checks go out to American taxpayers, even as Congress debated coronavirus-relief bills that excluded the checks.
"Right now, I want to see checks going for more money than they're talking about going to people," Trump told Fox News' Brian Kilmeade during a brief interview Saturday (Dec. 12) at the Army-Navy football game in West Point, New York.
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"I'm pushing it very hard, and to be honest with you, if the Democrats really wanted to do the deal, they do the deal," Trump also said.
Democrats, Republicans and the White House have been trying to find a compromise on a second round of economic stimulus since May.
All sides agree that more money, including more stimulus checks, is needed to boost the economy and help American citizens and businesses hit hard by the coronavirus lockdown, but the stumbling blocks are in the details.
Senate Republicans don't want to spend more than $1 trillion, but want liability protections for businesses large and small against COVID-19-related lawsuits, a measure Democrats oppose.
Democrats in the House want to send hundreds of billions to state and local governments that are running out of cash, which Republicans oppose.
The White House is willing to spend big, but wants the liability protections without the local-government aid.
Earlier this month, a group of centrist senators introduced a $908 billion bill that contained all these provisions -- except for another round of direct stimulus checks, which would have put the bill over the $1 trillion mark that would doom the bill in GOP-controlled Senate.
The White House last week countered with a $916 billion bill that would include stimulus checks of $600, half of the amount that went to American taxpayers under the CARES Act last month.
The bill also included both liability protections and some money for state and local governments, but not resumed federal unemployment-benefit supplements that some economists argue are more important than stimulus checks.
CNN reported yesterday (Dec. 13) that the centrist senators were planning to split their $908 billion bill into two. One would contain the provisions everyone wants; the other would contain the contentious liability protections and local-government aid. The idea is that the more desirable one would pass quickly, giving Americans some much-needed relief.
It's possible that if the second bill dies or languishes in legislative limbo, then Congress might be able to take up a second round of stimulus checks on its own. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Missouri) introduced just such a bill last week, which would send $1,200 checks to all American taxpayers who received the first round of stimulus checks provided by March's CARES Act.
But that depends on how adamant Congressional leaders are about getting their pet provisions passed. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-California) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) have until now opposed breaking up stimulus legislation into different pieces.
It's not clear if Trump's words to include second stimulus checks will have any effect. Previous presidential pronouncements haven't had much impact on stimulus-relief negotiations, barring the one time when Trump suddenly shut down negotiations, only to resume them two days later. But he seems to have a better sense of what ordinary Americans want than Congressional leaders do.