Three Mississippi lawmakers vote against $2,000 COVID-19 relief checks

Published 6:09 am Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Three Mississippi lawmakers voted against a bill passed by the House to support President Donald Trump’s push for $2,000 COVID-19 relief checks.

The bill which passed overwhelmingly in the House now rests with the Senate, but Republicans have shown little interest in boosting spending.

Congressmen Michael Guest, Trent Kelly and Steven Palazzo all voted against the measure, joining the 134 “Nay” votes on the CASH Act. Congressman Bennie Thompson voted in favor of the $2,000 checks.

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In a tweet by Thompson moments after the bill was passed, he wrote that “Republicans are on record. They have a choice: either vote for this bill, or vote to deny families the relief they desperately need.”

Trump also called for $2,000 direct checks for Americans, a proposition Democratic leaders are also in favor of. Lawmakers debated this increase of $600 to $2,000 on the floor of the House Monday afternoon and the bill did pass.

The outcome is highly uncertain heading into Tuesday’s session. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has declined to publicly address how he plans to handle the issue. But Democrats, sharing a rare priority with Trump, have seized on the opportunity to force Republicans into a difficult vote of either backing or defying the outgoing president.

After bipartisan approval by the House, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer warned, “There is no good reason for Senate Republicans to stand in the way.”

“There’s strong support for these $2,000 emergency checks from every corner of the country,” Schumer said in a statement late Monday. He called on McConnell to make sure the Senate helps “meet the needs of American workers and families who are crying out for help.”

The House tally was a stunning turn of events. Just days ago Republicans blocked Trump’s sudden demands for bigger checks during a brief Christmas Eve session as he defiantly refused to sign the broader COVID-19 aid and year-end funding bill into law.

As Trump spent days fuming from his private club in Florida, where he is spending the holidays, dozens of Republicans calculated it was better to link with Democrats to increase the pandemic stipend rather than buck the outgoing president and constituents counting on the money. Democrats led passage, 275-134, but 44 Republicans joined almost all Democrats in approval.

Senators were set to return to session Tuesday amid similar, stark GOP divisions between those who align with Trump’s populist instincts and others who adhere to what had been more traditional conservative views against government spending. Congress had settled on smaller $600 payments in a compromise over the big year-end relief bill Trump reluctantly signed into law.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declared, “Republicans have a choice: Vote for this legislation or vote to deny the American people the bigger paychecks they need.”

The showdown could end up as more symbol than substance if Trump’s effort fizzles out in the Senate.

The legislative action during the rare holiday week session may do little to change the $2 trillion-plus COVID-19 relief and federal spending package Trump signed into law Sunday, one of the biggest bills of its kind providing relief for millions of Americans.

Some Republican politicians in the state are taking heat on social media for approving the $2.5 trillion COVID-19 relief and federal spending package which President Trump signed Sunday evening.

Although the 5,593-page package would currently supply Americans with $600 checks, many have pointed to what they see as needless spending in the bill including $85.5 million for assistance in Cambodia and $40 million for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

Congressman Michael Guest described the bill as “not perfect” but wrote on Facebook that it contains “many common-sense and pro-life provisions.” He then pointed to the $1.4 billion allotted for the border wall and what he called “additional support for border patrol and border technologies.”