News and Commentary

Schumer Pledges To Make $2K Checks The First Priority Of New Senate
Chuck Schumer
Samuel Corum/Getty Images

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) told reporters Wednesday that the first priority of the new Senate, which comes to order January 20th, will be to pass $2,000 individual coronavirus stimulus checks.

Republicans and Democrats have sparred over the dollar amount of individual relief checks, eventually settling on $600 checks after a protracted back-and-forth, but Schumer says that now that Democrats are no longer required to negotiate, $2,000 payouts will be first on the agenda.

“One of the first things I want to do is deliver the $2,000 checks to the American families,” Schumer said.

The soon-to-be Senate Majority Leader did not say how he plans to pay for the bill, nor whether the measure would be a stand-alone bill, targeted just at getting relief to taxpayers. Previous coronavirus relief bills have been packed with handouts to businesses, large and small, and the latest bill to pass came paired with a massive omnibus spending bill that funded the government through November of 2021.

It is also not clear whether the $2,000 will be in addition to the $600 checks approved under the last bill, or whether the new measure will simply bring the total up to $2,000.

The news, though, may bring some relief to Republicans who thought a Democrat-controlled Senate would dive immediately into more controversial legislation, packing the Supreme Court with additional justices or reconfiguring the Affordable Care Act into a Medicare-for-All style single-payer health care system. Democrats have also threatened to end the filibuster altogether and to pass a “Green New Deal,” which would dramatically alter American infrastructure in the name of curbing climate change at a cost of trillions of dollars.

Democrats, though, have only a slim majority in the House and lead by an even slimmer margin in the Senate. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) caucus shrank considerably in the November elections, with many open seats going to Republicans, and although Democrats took both of Georgia’s Senate seats in a special runoff election on Tuesday, the result brings the Senate into a narrow split, with Vice President Kamala Harris being the tie-breaker.

In order to pass any far-left agenda items, progressives would have to put a hard sell on moderate Democrats like Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) who occasionally side with Republicans particularly on matters of the economy or the environment. Manchin opposes most health care reform and, being from a state where coal is a primary source of income, does not look favorably on bills designed to curb carbon emissions or limit or end the use of fossil fuels.

As it stands, even passing the $2,000 stimulus package will be a challenge, as The Hill points out.

‘Unless Democrats are going to try to pass the checks through reconciliation — a budget maneuver that allows them to avoid a 60-vote procedural hurdle — they will need support from at least 10 Republicans in order to pass a bill providing additional direct payments,” the outlet notes. ”

Schumer may be able to solve that disagreement by pinning the handouts to need, given that some Republicans’ opposition stems from concerns that the “money does not go to those most directly affected by the coronavirus pandemic.”