Caving to bipartisan pressure to avert a government shutdown, President Donald Trump finally signed off on the multi-billion dollar COVID relief bill that included funding to avert a government shutdown.
The bill also included a provision to give most Americans a $600 COVID relief check, though Trump has demanded that Congress up that number to $2000. The House of Representatives, which is controlled by Democrats, moved to vote on the increase on Monday.
Democrats, including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, seized on the president’s demands for higher relief checks almost instantly. The president’s demands run counter to some libertarian members of his own party. Rand Paul, for instance, has stated that “most Americans” don’t need relief checks at all. Other Republicans have winced at the idea of spending government funds on what they say amounts to welfare.
In addition to demanding the Senate vote on an increase to the size of the relief checks, Trump also called on Senate Republicans to vote on a rollback to Section 230, a law that protects websites from being held legally responsible for content that is posted on their sites. Additionally, Trump called for an investigation into “voter fraud” to be part of the Senate’s vote on the COVID bill. However, whether the Senate goes along with Trump’s demands is still unclear.
The president’s sway over the Senate has never been weaker. He’s in his lame duck period, with less than a month in the White House before Joe Biden is inaugurated. However, some analysts believe that Trump’s influence over the Republican voter base could remain sizable even after he leaves office. If this is the case, then Republican lawmakers will need to remain aware of Trump’s influence for fear of being primaried or even losing their seats to Democrats in the scramble of receiving the president’s Twitter ire.
The seeming division in the Senate over approving such a measure has Democrats jumping to put their opponents’ feet to the fire. With runoff elections in Georgia set to decide the balance of the Senate for Biden’s upcoming term, emphasis on seeing where Republican incumbents Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue fall on the issue is immense. Should the incumbents oppose an increase to the relief checks, they’ll be directly contradicting the Republican president. Meanwhile, should they support the measures, some Republicans could see it as a concession to a “socialist” policy.
Should both Loeffler and Perdue lose their seats in the January 5 runoffs, Democrats will control the Senate. As such, the hotly-contested races will be of immense interest on the national scale.