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Rep. Harris Sides Against Trump on $2K Stimulus Checks, Supports Defense Bill Veto

The U.S. House of Representatives approved a measure Monday evening to send $2,000 stimulus checks to many Americans, embracing a call from President Trump to more than triple the direct payments in the massive coronavirus relief package that he signed into law Sunday night.

A bill to boost the relief payments cleared the House on a vote of 275-134, with 44 Republicans joining all but two Democrats in support.

Maryland’s lone Republican in Congress, Rep. Andrew P. Harris, though a staunch Trump ally, voted against the bill to raise relief payments.

The measure now heads to the U.S. Senate, where the Republican majority had balked at repeating the $1,200 payments sent this spring when unemployment rolls surged nationally.

Instead, the $900 billion, bipartisan coronavirus relief bill that passed Congress last week included $600 checks to Americans who earn up to $75,000, with additional payments for dependent children and partial payments to those earning above that amount.

After that measure was approved, Trump suddenly dismissed those direct payments as too low, and called on Congress to approve $2,000 checks. Democrats quickly supported that call, saying they had sought more aid to those struggling amid the pandemic.

“Too many Marylanders, who through no fault of their own, are struggling to stay afloat. The stimulus payment is a short-term fix, a drop in the bucket, and pales in comparison to the needs of struggling families,” Rep. Kweisi Mfume (D-Md.) said in a statement Monday evening. “We must do more.”

House Republicans blocked an attempt last week by Democrats to fast-track larger stimulus checks. But in his signing statement Sunday evening, Trump repeated his call for $2,000 checks, declaring that “much more money is coming.”

Increasing those $600 checks to $2,000 would cost $464 billion, according to an analysis from the Joint Committee on Taxation, which prepares cost estimates for Congress. That’s roughly half of the cost of the overall relief package passed last week.

It’s not clear what comes next in the Republican-controlled Senate, where Democrats also are pushing for a vote. In his statement Sunday evening after Trump signed the coronavirus relief bill, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) did not mention the president’s comment that the Senate would “start the process for a vote” to boost those checks.

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), a member of GOP leadership, told reporters last week that he did not believe a bill on $2,000 stimulus checks would clear the Senate’s 60-vote threshold.

But several Senate Republicans have signaled that they would support it, including Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who said in a statement Monday that Congress should quickly approve the larger checks.

“I share many of my colleagues’ concern about the long-term effects of additional spending, but we cannot ignore the fact that millions of working class families across the nation are still in dire need of relief,” Rubio said.

Defense bill

The House also voted Monday evening to override Trump’s veto of a $740 billion defense spending bill, setting up the first veto override of Trump’s tenure.

Following Monday’s 322-87 vote, the bill heads back to the Senate, which is slated to return to session Tuesday. Overriding a presidential veto requires a two-thirds veto in each chamber.

The National Defense Authorization Act, a wide-ranging annual measure that includes pay raises for soldiers and defense modernization programs, initially passed both chambers of Congress with overwhelming, veto-proof majorities.

Monday’s override vote in the Democratic-controlled House was widely bipartisan and only slightly narrower than the initial 335-to-78 vote. Some GOP lawmakers who initially supported the defense bill, including Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), did not support the override, though 109 Republicans voted with Democrats to approve it.

Harris was among the Republicans who voted to sustain Trump’s veto.

Maryland Matters reporter Josh Kurtz contributed to this report.

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Rep. Harris Sides Against Trump on $2K Stimulus Checks, Supports Defense Bill Veto