Republican Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler both announced Tuesday that they support an effort to amend the recently passed omnibus spending bill to increase direct payments for Americans under a certain income level from $600 to $2,000.
The move comes one week before the end of the critical runoff races for the two incumbents’ US Senate seats in Georgia that will determine which party controls of the chamber. Perdue and Loeffler were under increased pressure from their Democratic opponents Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock to increase the payments, especially after President Donald Trump delayed the signing of the legislation because he was unhappy with the size of the payments.
The machinations from the pair of Republicans demonstrate the tumultuous state of the runoff and Trump’s unpredictable role in the process. Loeffler and Perdue both bragged about their efforts to pass the new round of Covid relief and touted the original proposal with the smaller, $600 payment. Perdue was up on the air with an ad about the aid package the morning after the legislation was passed.
Trump, however, put their victory lap on hold when he surprised both Republicans and Democrats by threatening to not sign the bill and demanding the payments be increased. The two Democrats in Georgia quickly pounced on Trump’s move – agreeing the payments in the initial package were too low and calling on their GOP opponents to support the move to $2,000.
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“The people need help. Perdue must reverse his opposition to $2,000 checks and join Democrats, President-elect Biden, and President Trump in immediately supporting $2,000 relief checks for his constituents,” Ossoff said in a statement.
Initially, Perdue and Loeffler were publicly hesitant to back the plan, a reflection of the careful balancing acts the duo has been forced to perform in order to keep Trump’s passionate supporters engaged in their campaign. Loeffler said she was open to the increasing the payments but wanted companion cuts in other parts of the package. Perdue remained mum on the topic. He did not issue a public statement on Trump’s issues with the bill but worked behind the scenes to encourage Trump to sign the initial package into law. A person familiar with their conversation told CNN that Perdue spoke to Trump to personally lobby him to sign the omnibus spending bill into law. Perdue proved to be an invaluable voice in the President’s ear, according to multiple aides, encouraging the President to sign the bill. Perdue argued the move could bolster the GOP’s Senate majority and would inevitably be celebrated as a win for Trump in his waning days in office.
After Perdue and company convinced Trump to sign the bill, the House quickly passed the amendment putting the Senate Republicans – most specifically Loeffler and Perdue – on the hot seat. It did not take long for the two GOP senators to stick with Trump as they have throughout their entire campaigns.
“The President has fought for our country from day one. He continues to fight for every single American. I’ve stood by the president 100% of the time, I’m proud to do that and I’ve said absolutely, we need to get relief to Americans now, and I will support that,” Loeffler told Fox News Tuesday morning. She followed up that appearance with a tweet that made it clear she would support the $2,000 checks.
Perdue quickly followed suit in a similar fashion, announcing his support for the plan via tweet.
“President Trump is right- I support this push for $2000 in direct relief for the American people,” he wrote.
While backing the $2,000 checks takes a degree of pressure of the GOP candidates, the process will still interrupt their campaigning in the crucial stretch of the runoff. Depending on how Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell handles the floor activity, it could mean Loeffler and Perdue will be forced to return to Washington to vote on the legislation, meaning they will have to leave the campaign trail with just days before voting is concluded.
Eligibility for the checks is determined by a person’s most recent tax returns. Anyone who made under $75,000 as an individual or $150,000 as a couple would receive the full amount. The amount individuals receive decreases by $5 for every $100 a person makes over $75,000. In short, that means that individuals who make over $99,000 would not be eligible nor would couples making more than $198,000.
The Georgia Senate runoff is January 5.
CNN’s Donald Judd and Lauren Fox contributed to this report.