Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) said on Wednesday that she would consider supporting the push to increase the COVID-19 stimulus payment from $600 to $2,000.
Loeffler, who is fighting to keep her seat in the upcoming Georgia run-off election, told reporters during a campaign event that she supports efforts to redirect “wasteful spending” to families and businesses, adding that if the $2,000 direct payments achieve that, she would be open to supporting it.
“I’ll certainly look at supporting it if it repurposes wasteful spending toward that, yes,” Loeffler said.
This comes as both houses of Congress are considering whether to revisit their $2.3 trillion omnibus spending and pandemic relief bill following President Donald Trump’s threat to veto it unless the direct stimulus checks were increased to $2,000 per individual.
In a video message on Tuesday night, the president criticized Congress’s move to pass a mammoth spending measure, which includes a $900 billion COVID-19 stimulus package, that sends hundreds of millions of dollars overseas for foreign aid and funds organizations that are “not even open for business,” while Americans in need of support are given “the bare minimum.”
The more than 5,500-page bill includes aid for the Egyptian military, Cambodia, Burma, “gender programs” in Pakistan, and numerous other countries. It also includes tens of millions in funding for the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. “which is not even open for business,” as well as the National Gallery of Arts and the Smithsonian.
The president urged lawmakers to remove what he characterized as “wasteful items” and “unnecessary” spending.
“I am asking Congress to amend this bill and increase the ridiculously low $600 to $2,000, or $4,000 for a couple,” he remarked. “Congress found plenty of money for foreign countries, lobbyists, and special interests,” the president added, “while sending the bare minimum to the American people who need it.”
“It wasn’t their fault,” he said of the American people. “It was China’s fault.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) have already voiced their support for the $2,000 stimulus checks. Pelosi placed pressure on House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif) on Wednesday to accept the increase to direct payments.
For months, Democrats have asserted that Republicans had stonewalled on talks—namely stimulus payments. Trump has often said that the stimulus payments should be sent out.
Other lawmakers such as Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and outgoing Rep. Joe Cunningham (D-S.C.) have also supported the push.
On Wednesday night, McCarthy sent a letter to Republicans criticizing Pelosi of trying to “use the American people as leverage” for making “coronavirus relief contingent on government funding.” He said in his letter that House Republicans had attempted the pass the relief “over forty times” but their attempts were “ignored” by the Democrats.
McCarthy also appeared to side with Trump saying that he was open to reexamining how taxpayer dollars are being spent overseas. He said that he would offer his own unanimous consent request to “revisit the State and Foreign Operation title” of the omnibus bill.
“They have conveniently ignored the concerns expressed by the President, and shared by our constituents, that we ought to reexamine how our tax dollars are spent overseas while so many of our neighbors at home are struggling to make ends meet,” McCarthy wrote in his letter.
“It will be up to Speaker Pelosi to decide if she wants to act on behalf of the American people,” he added.
Jack Phillips and Ivan Pentchoukov contributed to this report.