This report was written by David Sirota, Andrew Perez and Walker Bragman.
After weeks of progressive pressure, president-elect Joe Biden on Monday promised to immediately deliver $2,000 survival checks to millions of Americans if Georgia Democratic senate candidates Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff win their races this week. The comments come a month after Biden reportedly told congressional Democrats to accept stimulus legislation that included no checks.
“One state can chart the course — not just for the next four years, but for the next generation,” Biden said in a speech in Atlanta on Monday night. “By electing Jon and the Reverend you can make an immediate difference in your own lives, the lives of people all across this country because their election will put an end to the block in Washington on that $2,000 stimulus check, that money that will go out the door immediately to people who are in real trouble.”
Biden’s shift comes only a month after he helped convince congressional Democrats to support stimulus legislation that did not include the checks, according to the New York Times. At the time, Biden suggested he did not oppose checks, but he pushed Democrats to accept a deal without them, raising concerns that he may revert to his past support for budget austerity.
Biden’s shift from endorsing legislation with no checks to now promising $2,000 checks follows a relentless campaign from Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who has pushed the wildly popular idea of $2,000 checks for most of the last year. His crusade was boosted by House progressives who also supported the measure -- and their effort received a late, unexpected boost from President Donald Trump, who threatened to hold up stimulus legislation without more direct aid for workers.
The campaign ultimately reduced its ask to a second round of $1,200 checks and was also supported in Congress by Republican Sen. Josh Hawley. It successfully pressured lawmakers to include checks in the stimulus bill that passed Congress. However, Biden’s influence once again pressured Democrats into accepting less than they had initially sought, ultimately reducing the checks to just half that.
When Trump suddenly signaled his support for $2,000, House Democrats quickly passed separate legislation for that amount.
In the Senate, Sanders was backed by 5 Democratic lawmakers who voted to sustain his filibuster of the defense authorization bill to try to force a vote on the $2,000 checks. That tactic, however, was short-circuited by Republican senators and more than 40 Senate Democrats who sided with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in motions to shut down the filibuster. Among the Democrats helping shut down the filibuster was vice-president elect Kamala Harris.
As Sanders spotlighted the $2,000 checks legislation on Capitol Hill in the last month, Georgia Democrats Warnock and Ossoff began campaigning on the initiative.
This past week, Warnock ran an ad with the line, "Want a $2,000 check? Vote Warnock." Ossoff, meanwhile, tweeted on Monday that “We can pass $2000 relief checks for the people, but we have to win this Senate election.”
Under pressure, Republican incumbents David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler issued last-minute statements of general support for the $2,000 checks, but they never actually lifted a finger to press McConnell to allow a vote on the proposal.Perdue had previously opposed the entire concept of direct stimulus checks.
During that fight, Biden stopped telling Democrats to accept a deal with no checks, and initially signaled his support for the checks in muted terms - he said only “yes” when asked whether he approved of the proposal. His speech in Georgia on Monday was a much more enthusiastic declaration of support for the legislation — which could be signed by Biden on his first day in office, if the Democratic House and a newly Democratic Senate immediately passes the legislation if Ossoff and Warnock win.
“Think about what it will mean to your lives,” Biden said of the $2,000 checks. “Putting food on the table. Paying rent. Paying down your mortgage. Paying down the credit card, paying the phone bill, the gas bill, the electric bill.”
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