Georgia Senate Republicans back $2,000 stimulus checks under pressure from Trump, Democrats

U.S. Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue on Tuesday endorsed President Donald Trump’s push to increase the size of stimulus checks from $600 to $2,000. even as they faced a fresh decision over whether to join the U.S. House vote to override his veto of an annual military spending bill. The two incumbents each backed the president’s demand for heftier stimulus payments after days of silence over whether they would join an . odd coalition comprised of Trump and liberal Democrats -- including their two runoff rivals -- who had rallied behind the more generous checks. Not doing so meant standing with congressional leaders and other Republicans who supported the spending measure they approved just last week. but it also risked alienating Trump and his loyalists in Georgia, whose support they are relying upon ahead of Jan. 5 runoffs for control of the Senate. Loeffler told Fox News on Tuesday that “absolutely, we need to get relief to Americans now and I will support” the measure. Perdue, who had refused repeated requests for comment on the measure, tweeted shortly after that he will “support this push for $2,000 in direct relief for the American people”. Trump signed a mammoth spending bill Sunday that included $900 billion in funding for coronavirus relief after calling the plan his administration helped draft a “disgrace”. But he urged Congress to increase funding and cut unspecified “pork,” splitting Republicans who were divided over increasing the national debt

GOP House members from Georgia opposed larger stimulus checks, split on overriding Trump veto

U.S. Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue on Tuesday endorsed President Donald Trump’s push to increase the size of stimulus checks from $600 to $2,000 amid increasing pressure from Democrats and the president’s most loyal supporters in the final week of high-stakes runoffs for control of the U.S. Senate.

After days of silence — and relentless attacks from Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock over their indecision — the two incumbents each backed the president’s demand for heftier stimulus payments, their latest in a series of moves aimed at currying favor with Trump ahead of the Jan. 5 election.

It meant finding common cause with the same Democrats they’ve spent months characterizing as radical extremists. It also could mean defying congressional Republican leaders who supported the original spending measure -- a spending plan that Loeffler and Perdue have spent much of the last week touting on the campaign trail after voting to support it.

It is unclear if the bill to increase the stimulus measure will come to a vote in the Senate. It passed in the U.S. House on Monday with every Republican from Georgia opposed.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked consideration of the House bill Tuesday, but Democrats could attempt to force a vote on the measure as early as Wednesday. Trump said in a tweet that McConnell and other Republicans have a “death wish” if they don’t increase the payments.

The two Georgia senators, who are essentially running on a joint ticket, announced their support of the larger stimulus payments within hours of each other on Fox News.

Elaborating at a campaign stop on Tuesday, Loeffler said the beefier checks are needed “to provide relief to Americans because Democrats have locked our country down.” Perdue, meanwhile, told the network it was “the right thing to do for people in Georgia.”

Both measures will have implications on the campaign trail. Ossoff and Warnock, along with their allies, have assailed the Republicans for not more assertively endorsing a more robust stimulus plan during months of negotiations. On Tuesday, they accused two senators of both flip-flopping and caving to pressure.

“He hasn’t had a change of heart,” Ossoff said of Perdue. “He’s exclusively focused on his own political survival.”

Both Perdue and Loeffler have been lukewarm in the past about more generous incentives. Loeffler criticized a push to increase unemployment insurance payments in July. And Perdue said the same month he’d prefer a new payroll tax cut rather than a “direct payment like we did in the first round” when Americans received $1,200 cash payments.

The two incumbents join a small group of Senate Republicans, including Marco Rubio of Florida and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, to back the increase. Still, a majority of the Senate GOP caucus is opposed to the plan.

Democrats see a campaign ploy that won’t translate into results. Stacey Abrams, the former Democratic gubernatorial contender and voting rights activist, questioned whether the “miraculous ‘Road to Damascus’ support (will) be campaign headlines only or will Perdue and Loeffler actually do their jobs for Georgians and force McConnell to call a vote?”

Until Tuesday, the senators were largely silent on the fate of the measure, which includes $900 billion in funding for coronavirus relief, after Trump called it a “disgrace” and threatened a veto. He wound up signing it late Sunday, though he urged Congress to more than triple the amount of the stimulus checks, splitting Republicans who are concerned over increasing the national debt.

Loeffler told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution last week she would endorse the increase in stimulus checks only if “it repurposes wasteful spending.” Perdue had refused repeated requests for comment on the measure, though he cut a TV ad a week ago touting support for the initial version of the legislation, which included the less generous $600 checks.

Their abrupt show of support for Trump’s demands was applauded by some Republicans. Seanie Zappendorf, who chairs the Dawson County GOP, said Loeffler and Perdue’s stances reflect their willingness to stay on the good side of a president who is immensely popular among the party’s base.

“They’re doing what their constituents expect them to do, which is support the president,” she said. “I’m supporting the senators for supporting the president.”

Military spending bill

Meanwhile, the two incumbents also faced another decision that could anger Trump: Whether to join the U.S. House vote to override his veto of an annual military spending bill..

A vote to override Trump’s veto of that measure, known as the National Defense Authorization Act, would protect funding for military installations across Georgia and a 3% pay increase for troops. But it also risks alienating the president just days before he travels to northwest Georgia to stage a runoff eve rally on their behalf.

McConnell, who supports the override, wanted to move quickly but Democrats could take advantage of Senate rules and keep members in Washington for several days. Perdue and Loeffler would have to decide whether they will leave the campaign trail to participate.

Neither Republican senator has indicated how they will land — Loeffler wouldn’t say when pressed about the issue at a campaign stop on Tuesday — and there’s a chance they skip the upcoming votes. Both campaigns have raced to appeal to the roughly 700,000 military veterans who live in Georgia.

The upcoming Senate votes were teed up by Monday action in the U.S. House. Georgia’s Republican House delegation voted against increasing the stimulus checks to $2,000, while the state’s entire Democratic contingent supported the move.

“There’s a light at the end of the tunnel, but until we get there Americans struggling to pay rent, put food on the table and stay healthy need our help,” Lithonia Rep. Hank Johnson said. “This money will go a long way in helping make people whole during this difficult time.”

Overall, 44 of 195 House Republicans voted to increase the amount of the checks. It passed the House 275-134.

The state’s GOP delegation split on the second vote on the defense bill, which also includes a provision to rename based named after Confederate leaders. Two of them are in Georgia: Fort Gordon and Fort Benning.

Trump said he nixed the measure because of that clause and also because the bill didn’t include language he demanded to repeal a legal shield for social media companies that has drawn his fury.

Two Georgia representatives — Barry Loudermilk and Rick Allen — initially voted in favor of the defense policy bill but did not support overriding Trump’s veto. Loudermilk issued a statement saying he always harbored misgivings about the measure and decided to stand with Trump on the veto.

“No one has a better pulse on the security of this nation and our military than the president of the United States, and I believe his objections to the bill are reasonable and intended to protect all Americans,” Loudermilk said.

Georgia Reps. Buddy Carter, Drew Ferguson, Rob Woodall and Austin Scott voted with Democrats and a majority of Republicans to override Trump’s veto. The final tally was 322-87.

U.S. Rep. Jody Hice, R-Monroe, was the only member of Georgia’s delegation to vote against the N.D.A.A. initially. Both he and Rep. Doug Collins missed both of the votes on Monday. Collins’ office did not immediately respond to questions about his absence.

Hice’s office said he had difficulty booking travel to Washington but would have opposed the stimulus increase and backed Trump on the veto.

Staff Writer Patricia Murphy contributed to this report.

HOW GEORGIA REPRESENTATIVES VOTED

Overriding Trump’s veto of the N.D.A.A., H.R. 6395

Yes

Sanford Bishop, D-Albany

Buddy Carter, R-Pooler

Drew Ferguson, R-West Point

Kwanza Hall, D-Atlanta

Hank Johnson, D-Lithonia

Lucy McBath, D-Marieta

Austin Scott, R-Tifton

David Scott, D-Atlanta

Rob Woodall, R-Lawrenceville

No

Rick Allen, R-Evans

Barry Loudermilk, R-Cassville

Increasing stimulus checks from $600 to $2,000, H.R. 9051

Yes

Sanford Bishop, D-Albany

Kwanza Hall, D-Atlanta

Hank Johnson, D-Lithonia

Lucy McBath, D-Marieta

David Scott, D-Atlanta

No

Rick Allen, R-Evans

Buddy Carter, R-Pooler

Drew Ferguson, R-West Point

Barry Loudermilk, R-Cassville

Austin Scott, R-Tifton

Rob Woodall, R-Lawrenceville

Absent for both votes

Doug Collins, R-Gainesville

Jody Hice, R-Monroe

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