How Michigan lawmakers voted on $2,000 stimulus checks

Riley Beggin
The Detroit News

The Democratic-led U.S. House voted Monday to approve $2,000 direct payments to Americans instead of the previously agreed-upon $600, putting Senate Republicans in the hot seat as they are set up to choose between appeasing the president of their own party and the fiscal conservatism that’s central to their political ideology.

Michigan's House delegation was split on the proposal, with all Democrats approving the package alongside two Republicans, Rep. Fred Upton of St. Joseph and Rep. Jack Bergman of Watersmeet. Michigan’s other Republican lawmakers voted against the amendment, as did Libertarian Rep. Justin Amash of Cascade Township and Independent Rep. Paul Mitchell of Dryden Township.

More:House votes to override Trump’s veto of defense bill, approves $2K relief checks

It’s the latest turn in a long process to approve a second stimulus package that would help the nation weather the coronavirus pandemic. President Donald Trump signed a $900 billion aid package Sunday night after criticizing it for days, despite bipartisan approval in Congress and negotiation between lawmakers and a senior administration official, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

U.S. Representative Rashida Tlaib talks about the late John Dingell and John Lewis during the eleventh Annual MLK Legacy Awards.

Trump said the original package was a “disgrace” and called upon Congress to increase “the ridiculously low” payment of $600 to $2,000 for individuals. The $600 payment will go forward unless Congress votes to change the amount.

Democrats jumped at the chance. Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Detroit, helped draft an amendment to increase payments to $2,000, but House leadership ultimately put forward a similar bill from Massachusetts Democrat Rep. Richard Neal.

“People are hurting across America,” Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, told The Detroit News shortly before the vote Monday. “They need a helping hand. They need compassion. And they need action.”

Upton released a statement Sunday evening praising Trump for signing the package after he “saw the light” and admonishing him for denying “folks certainty this past weekend.” He said he intended to approve the $2,000 payments, adding that “Americans need help — as much as they can get — and this package delivers that assistance.”

Rep. Fred Upton

While many praised the passage of the amendment, Democrats also lampooned the president for the multi-day delay leading up to Trump approving the package Sunday.

"This entire ordeal was typical of a president who from the beginning projected a message of faux populism and accomplished absolutely nothing for working people over the past four years," said Rep. Andy Levin, D-Bloomfield Township, in a statement. 

But many Republicans opposed increasing direct payments, which they argued represented exorbitant government spending that's unlikely to have its intended effect. 

"Nobody has read this bill, nobody knows the true implications of it," said Huizenga, who voted no. He said families need additional support, but direct stimulus checks aren't the most effective way to help. 

"At the end of the day, we need to speed up treatment and the ability to get those vaccines out so we can open our economy," he said. "That is the key to this. It’s not just sending a check to a family indiscriminately.”

Senate Republicans — who have opposed higher direct stimulus payments and instead supported targeted relief in order to avoid running up more government debt — are now left in a sticky situation.

After signing the aid package Sunday, Trump released a statement saying the Senate would begin “the process for a vote” to increase stimulus checks to $2,000, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made no mention of doing so in a statement praising Trump’s approval Sunday night.

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer of New York released a statement following Monday's vote saying he will move to pass the $2,000 check legislation when the chamber meets on Tuesday and called upon McConnell to allow a floor vote. Both Michigan senators, Gary Peters of Bloomfield Hills and Debbie Stabenow of Lansing, have said they would support the increased stimulus payments. 

Senate Republicans aren’t expected to do so, making the House’s approval Monday largely symbolic, but it creates a political pressure point. Democrats are already framing Senate Republicans who are likely to vote against the measure — if it comes up for a vote at all — as miserly in the face of a devastating pandemic.

The stakes remain high for both parties as runoff races for Senate seats on Jan. 5 in Georgia will determine which party controls the upper chamber next year. 

The House also voted Monday to override Trump’s veto of the National Defense Authorization Act, which provides $740 billion in funding for military programs, construction projects and a pay raise for U.S. troops. Trump vetoed the bill, arguing it didn’t rescind a law that provides legal protections for internet companies and it requires the renaming of facilities named after Confederate leaders.

All of the members of Michigan's House delegation voted for the override except for Tlaib and Amash.

The bill, a version of which has been approved every year for almost six decades, passed earlier this month with veto-proof majorities in the House and Senate. It remains unclear whether the Senate will also vote to override the veto Tuesday.

Twitter: @rbeggin