Strange bedfellows! The ‘Squad’ backs Trump’s demand for $2,000 stimulus relief checks

President Trump and the ultra-progressive ‘Squad’ have little in common, but they all agree on giving Americans $2,000 stimulus checks, proving that politics does indeed make strange bedfellows.

The foursome of Democratic lawmakers that includes House Reps. Rashida Tlaib, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, and Ayanna Pressley joined fellow progressive House Rep. Pramila Jayapal to introduce a bill that would more than triple the relief checks approved in Congress’ latest stimulus bill.

The move comes after Trump said he would support a bill from Congress that would boost the stimulus checks in the most recent bill approved by both chambers from $600 to $2,000.

The president on Friday doubled down on his demand to Congress to increase payments from $600 to $2,000 in the spending and COVID-19 stimulus bill that lawmakers already sent to the president’s desk.  

‘Made many calls and had meetings at Trump International in Palm Beach, Florida,’ the president tweeted after being spotted with Senator Lindsey Graham heading to his golf club on Christmas morning. 

‘Why would politicians not want to give people $2000, rather than only $600? It wasn’t their fault, it was China. Give our people the money!’ 

Earlier, Politico’s Playbook reported that the president was complaining that the giant package had too much ‘pork.’   

Trump’s stance is at odds with fellow Republicans in Congress who prevented House Speaker Nancy Pelosi from convening the lower chamber on Thursday and amending the legislation by unanimous consent.

The four members of the ‘Squad’ – a group of progressive Democratic lawmakers in the US House of Representatives – found common cause with President Trump as they introduced a bill that would provide $2,000 stimulus checks to every American. From left: House Reps. Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Ayanna Pressley

The 'Squad' introduced a bill alongside another progressive member of Congress, House Rep. Pramila Jayapal (above) of Washington State

The ‘Squad’ introduced a bill alongside another progressive member of Congress, House Rep. Pramila Jayapal (above) of Washington State

Trump (seen above in a photo posted to his Instagram account on Friday) has threatened to veto a wide-ranging coronavirus relief package that includes stimulus checks totaling $600

Trump (seen above in a photo posted to his Instagram account on Friday) has threatened to veto a wide-ranging coronavirus relief package that includes stimulus checks totaling $600

‘This holiday season, families are being forced to make incredibly difficult decisions, such as whether they should keep their lights on or buy groceries,’ Tlaib, the second-term congresswoman who represents Detroit, said in a statement.

‘Providing $2,000 survival checks would give those struggling right now a lifeline as we continue to fight to defeat COVID-19.

‘It’s time for Trump to stop bluffing and get the members of his party in line so that the government can provide this long-overdue relief to people across the country during this time of great need.’

‘We’ve been fighting all along for robust survival checks to help people meet their most basic needs, and the broad support that has emerged is a testament to the power of the people and the urgency of this moment,’ said Pressley, the Boston congresswoman.

Tlaib released a statement on her Twitter account on Friday calling for the direct payment of $2,000 'survival checks' to Americans

Tlaib released a statement on her Twitter account on Friday calling for the direct payment of $2,000 ‘survival checks’ to Americans

‘Two thousand dollars in direct cash assistance will help families weather the crisis while we continue fighting for additional relief that meets the scale and scope of the hurt so many are feeling.

‘Let’s get it done.’

Trump and the ‘Squad’ have frequently assailed one another over the course of the last two years.

In speeches at campaign rallies, the president has questioned AOC’s intelligence and whether she went to college.

During his appearances before his supporters, Trump has also called into question Omar’s patriotism and loyalty to America in comments that outraged many as racist and xenophobic.

Omar, who is black and Muslim, came to the United States as a refugee from Somalia and settled in the Minneapolis area.

Last year, Trump lashed out at Tlaib and said he didn’t ‘buy her tears’ after the congresswoman and Omar were told they would not be allowed to visit Tlaib’s Palestinian grandmother in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Tlaib was later told by the Israeli authorities that she would be allowed to visit her grandmother as long as she promised not to make public comments promoting a boycott of Israel over its occupation of Palestine.

Tlaib and Omar declined to make the trip.

In perhaps the most incendiary attack, Trump last year tweeted a post on Twitter in which he called on the ‘Squad’ members to ‘go back’ to the ‘corrupt’ countries that they came from – even though all except for Omar were born in the United States. 

But the ‘Squad’ now finds itself in a rare point of agreement with the president.

A similar piece of legislation was introduced by another Democrat, House Rep. Richard Neal of Massachusetts.

Unlike Neal’s proposal, however, the ‘Squad’s’ bill is a standalone measure that is not tied to any other provision included in the COVID-19 relief package approved by Congress last week.

Neal’s bill would only kick in if all of the other parameters, including government funding and other provisions, are approved.

Trump and the ‘Squad’ have frequently assailed one another over the course of the last two years. In perhaps the most incendiary attack, Trump last year tweeted a post on Twitter in which he called on the 'Squad' members to 'go back' to the 'corrupt' countries that they came from - even though all except for Omar were born in the United States

 Trump and the ‘Squad’ have frequently assailed one another over the course of the last two years. In perhaps the most incendiary attack, Trump last year tweeted a post on Twitter in which he called on the ‘Squad’ members to ‘go back’ to the ‘corrupt’ countries that they came from – even though all except for Omar were born in the United States

 

The full package of legislation was shipped to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida, where the president and his family are spending the Christmas holiday.

Either way, the likelihood that Americans will receive $2,000 checks appears to be low given opposition from Republicans in both chambers.

House Republicans shot down a Democratic bid on Thursday to pass Trump’s longshot, end-of-session demand for $2,000 direct payments to most Americans before signing a long-overdue COVID-19 relief bill.

The made-for-TV clash came as the Democratic-controlled chamber convened for a pro forma session scheduled in anticipation of a smooth Washington landing for the massive, year-end legislative package, which folds together a $1.4trillion governmentwide spending with the hard-fought COVID-19 package and dozens of unrelated but bipartisan bills.

Thursday’s unusual 12-minute House session session instead morphed into unconvincing theater in response to Trump’s veto musings about the package, which was negotiated by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Trump’s behalf.

House Rep. Steny Hoyer, the No. 2 House Democrat, sought the unanimous approval of all House members to pass the bill, but GOP leader Kevin McCarthy, who was not present in the nearly-empty chamber, denied his approval and the effort fizzled.

If Trump were to follow through on his implied veto threat, delivered via video clip on Tuesday, the government would likely experience a brief, partial shutdown of the government starting on December 29.

It would also delay delivery of the $600 direct payments that the bill does contain.

Senate Republicans, led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, have opposed larger $2,000 checks as too costly and poorly targeted.

Democrats are supportive of the direct payments and now plan to vote on the $2,000 check proposal on Monday. House Republicans are expected to block the vote, but Democrats may try again Monday.

The president’s last-minute objections are setting up a defining showdown with his own Republican Party in his final days in office.

Rather than take the victory of the sweeping aid package, among the biggest in history, Trump is lashing out at GOP leaders over the presidential election – for acknowledging Joe Biden as president-elect and rebuffing his campaign to dispute the Electoral College results when they are tallied in Congress on January 6.

President Donald Trump (left) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (right) headed to the president's West Palm Beach golf club on Christmas morning as the fate of the massive stimulus and spending bill remains in limbo

President Donald Trump (left) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (right) headed to the president’s West Palm Beach golf club on Christmas morning as the fate of the massive stimulus and spending bill remains in limbo 

Trump doubled down on his demand of Congress to increase the stimulus checks to Americans from $600, which is in the legislation, to $2,000

Trump doubled down on his demand of Congress to increase the stimulus checks to Americans from $600, which is in the legislation, to $2,000 

Trump is captured waving to supporters on his return trip to Mar-a-Lago on Christmas Day

Trump is captured waving to supporters on his return trip to Mar-a-Lago on Christmas Day 

Trump's motorcade is photographed as it leaves Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida for his nearby West Palm Beach golf club. The president also spent part of Christmas Eve on the course

Trump’s motorcade is photographed as it leaves Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida for his nearby West Palm Beach golf club. The president also spent part of Christmas Eve on the course 

The president's motorcade drove Trump and Graham to the Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach, Florida Friday morning

The president’s motorcade drove Trump and Graham to the Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach, Florida Friday morning 

The president’s push to increase direct payments for most Americans from $600 to $2,000 for individuals and $4,000 for couples splits the party with a politically painful loyalty test, including for GOP senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, fighting to retain their seats in the January 5 special election in Georgia.

Republican lawmakers traditionally balk at big spending and many never fully embraced Trump’s populist approach. Their political DNA tells them to oppose a costlier relief package.

But now they’re being asked to stand with the president.

On a conference call Wednesday House Republican lawmakers complained that Trump threw them under the bus, according to one Republican on the private call and granted anonymity to discuss it.

Most had voted for the package and they urged leaders to hit the cable news shows to explain its benefits, the person said.

Democrats were taking advantage of the Republican disarray to apply pressure for a priority. Jon Ossoff, Perdue’s Democratic opponent, tweeted simply on Tuesday night: ‘$2,000 checks now.’

The relief bill Trump is criticizing would establish a temporary $300 per week supplemental jobless benefit, along with a new round of subsidies for hard-hit businesses, restaurants and theaters and money for schools, health care providers and renters facing eviction.

Even though Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin represented the White House in negotiations, Trump assailed the bipartisan effort in a video he tweeted out Tuesday night, suggesting he may not sign the legislation.

Railing against a range of provisions in the broader government funding package, including foreign aid mainstays included each year, Trump called the bill a ‘disgrace.’

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy railed against 'billions in foreign aid' in a spending bill he helped negotiate, parroting what Trump had said in the president's Tuesday night video

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy railed against ‘billions in foreign aid’ in a spending bill he helped negotiate, parroting what Trump had said in the president’s Tuesday night video 

Trump did not specifically vow to use his veto power, and there may be enough support in Congress to override him if he does.

But the consequences would be severe if Trump upends the legislation.

It would mean no federal aid to struggling Americans and small businesses, and no additional resources to help with vaccine distribution.

To top it off, because lawmakers linked the pandemic relief bill to an overarching funding measure, the government would shut down on December 29.

The final text of the more than 5,000-page bill was still being prepared by Congress and was not expected to be sent to the White House for Trump’s signature before Thursday or Friday, an aide said.

That complicates the schedule ahead. If Trump vetoes the package, or allows it to expire with a ‘pocket veto’ at the end of the year, Americans will go without massive amounts of COVID aid.

A resolution could be forced Monday. That’s when a stopgap funding bill Congress approved to keep the government funded while the paperwork was being compiled expires, risking a federal shutdown.

Democrats are considering another stopgap measure to at least keep government running until Biden is sworn into office January 20, according to two aides granted anonymity to discuss the private talks.

The House was already set to return Monday, and the Senate Tuesday, for a vote to override Trump’s veto of the must-pass defense bill.

Democrats may try again at that time to pass Trump’s proposal for $2,000 checks, as well as the temporary government funding measure to avert a shutdown, the aides said.

The push for bigger payments to Americans drew rare common cause between Trump and some of the most liberal members of Congress.

Pelosi and Democrats said they fought for the higher stipends during protracted negotiations only to settle on the lower number when Republicans refused.

Republicans have been reluctant to spend more on pandemic relief and only agreed to the big year-end package as time dwindled for a final deal.

Senator Chuck Schumer, the Senate Democratic leader, said that ‘Trump needs to sign the bill to help people and keep the government open,’ and Congress would step up for more aid after.

The Senate cleared the huge relief package by a 92-6 vote after the House approved it by 359-53. Those votes totals would be enough to override a veto should Trump decide to take that step.

Biden applauded lawmakers for their work. He described the package as far from perfect, ‘but it does provide vital relief at a critical time.’

He also said more relief would be needed in the months ahead. 

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