After several months of deadlocked negotiations, Congress has finally provided a second round of stimulus checks. However, recent attempts to raise the direct payments from $600 to $2,000 have been blocked in the GOP-controlled Senate. President-elect Joe Biden has promised a third stimulus check after his inauguration on January 20, but can it happen?
The Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) started distributing the $600 checks after President Donald Trump signed the bipartisan $900 billion coronavirus relief package approved by Congress last month.
Prior to signing the bill, Trump pushed to fatten the second check amount to $2,000. A measure to boost the payments passed the House, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has repeatedly blocked a standalone vote in the upper chamber.
This month, a new Congress will convene and Biden is expected to be inaugurated on January 20. The incoming president has called the $600 checks a “down payment” and said he would soon bring more direct payments to Americans struggling under the worsening pandemic.
Asked by a reporter on December 23 whether the next COVID-19 relief package would include further direct payments, Biden said: “Look, that’s a negotiating issue. But it will, yes it will.”
Fiscally conservative Republicans limited the amount in the second round of checks, killing the proposal to boost payments to $2,000 because it would have allegedly sent “thousands of dollars to people who don’t need the help.” It’s likely that McConnell could continue to block further stimulus checks under Biden’s presidency if the GOP retains control of the Senate.
However, if both Democratic Georgia candidates—Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff—win against the GOP incumbents—Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue—in the Senate runoffs on Tuesday, Republicans would lose control of the upper chamber and their ability to restrain Biden’s ability to push through his party’s agenda.
Democrats currently hold a slim majority in the House and need just two more Senate seats for a 50-50 split. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris would then cast the tie-breaking vote. If they obtain control of both chambers, Americans should expect additional checks to be passed in 2021.
Most Americans support more direct payments and have blamed lawmakers for the lack of financial support amid the ongoing pandemic.
“Were’s [sic] my money?” read one message left on McConnell’s door. Another said: “Mitch Kills Poor.”
Graffiti on Pelosi’s garage door read, “$2K,” “We want everything,” and “Cancel rent.”
Newsweek reached out to Biden’s transition team for comment.