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President Trump called on Senate Republicans Wednesday to support “much higher” spending for a prospective coronavirus relief bill, surprising members of the caucus who have advocated for a more constrained approach compared to previous relief legislation.
House Democrats passed a bill in May that would include a new round of $1,200 stimulus checks to all Americans, while the bill would see $3 trillion in overall new spending. Republicans in the Senate countered with a pared-down $300 billion relief bill, which was blocked by Senate Democrats.
Republicans have generally opposed additional stimulus checks and have pushed to include liability legislation that would shield companies from some coronavirus-related lawsuits. Democrats have supported stimulus checks while decrying attempts to pass liability protections.
“Democrats are ‘heartless’. They don’t want to give STIMULUS PAYMENTS to people who desperately need the money, and whose fault it was NOT that the plague came in from China,” Trump wrote on Twitter on Wednesday. “Go for the much higher numbers, Republicans, it all comes back to the USA anyway (one way or another!).”
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany later clarified that Trump supports a bill of at least $500 billion in relief spending, as well as stimulus checks for Americans.
House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) welcomed the president’s remarks.
“We are encouraged that after months of the Senate Republicans insisting on shortchanging the massive needs of the American people, President Trump is now calling on Republicans to ‘go for the much higher numbers’ in the next coronavirus relief package,” Pelosi and Schumer said in a joint statement.
Meanwhile, Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R., S.D.) cautioned that Republicans could not easily agree raise spending levels.
“I’m not sure what higher numbers, what that means. That probably needs to get translated for us,” Thune told the Washington Post. “But I know kind of what the threshold is for what we can get Republican votes for in the Senate, and I think if the number gets too high anything that got passed in the Senate would be passed mostly with Democrat votes and a handful of Republicans, so it’s going to have to stay in sort of a realistic range.”