“$2,000 for our great people, not $600!,” Donald Trump shrieked into the Twittersphere on Tuesday, minutes before launching into a lengthy election harangue.
It didn’t surprise anyone when both David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler came out in favor of Trump’s demand that Congress increase the size of the stimulus checks included in the latest virus relief bill.
One of the key political questions Trump inadvertently (or not) raised last week when he first called for the larger checks, was whether Perdue and Loeffler would cast aside GOP orthodoxy and back the president.
Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock seized the opportunity to assail their Republican rivals. Perdue “opposed even the first round of $1,200 checks,” Ossoff said. “Imagine a sitting US senator who was profiting from the pandemic buying medical and vaccine stocks, opposing even the first single round of checks.”
As The Hill recounts, “when Perdue was asked by the Marietta Daily Journal in May about individuals who have not lost work receiving $1,200 payments, he said he ‘personally opposed it’ [and] in July, Perdue said in an interview with ‘PBS NewsHour’ that he preferred a payroll tax cut to direct payments.”
Over the holidays, Perdue implored Trump to sign the stimulus bill, reportedly fearing that between the prospect of lapsing benefits for the jobless and the optics around the White House backing larger checks that some Republicans opposed, Georgia voters otherwise inclined to cast their ballots for the GOP, might rethink those plans. So worried was Perdue, that he reportedly called Larry Kudlow and Ivanka to help pressure the president.
Less than 24 hours after the House voted to move ahead on the larger checks, putting the ball in Mitch McConnell’s court, both Perdue and Loeffler not only came out in favor of sending 85% of taxpayers $2,000, they also ludicrously attempted to blame Democrats for not sending more money sooner.
“Look, this should have been done months ago,” Perdue said. “We were obstructed in the Senate by the Democrats who were playing presidential politics the first time and now they’re playing senatorial politics.”
Perdue is right about one thing: Democrats were playing presidential politics. But the suggestion that Chuck Schumer “obstructed” the Senate in a quest to deliver massive aid to the public is an objectively dubious claim. At no point was the GOP-held Senate prepared to send Americans $2,000 checks just months after sending them $1,200.
What actually happened, is the following. McConnell attempted to float a small relief package with a price tag somewhere between $500 billion and $750 billion at a time when Nancy Pelosi and Steve Mnuchin were working on a compromise deal that ended up being in the neighborhood of $1.9 trillion. Ultimately, that compromise bill ran up against the election and died. At no point did McConnell indicate the Senate would pass that legislation. In fact, he explicitly said the GOP votes for that large of a package weren’t there. He said it over and over again. And he said it publicly.
So, in addition to flying in the face of common sense (Perdue was attempting to tell the public that it’s Democrats who are against big spending), Perdue’s characterization simply isn’t accurate. This isn’t a matter of interpretation or blame-casting. It’s just reality versus misinformation. Perdue is trafficking in the latter.
“I’m delighted to support the president in this $2,000 — it’s really a $1,400 increment over what we’ve already done — and I think with the vaccine coming, this is fully appropriate,” he added.
You have to love the caveat. It’s subtle, but it’s there, and it’s not accidental. Perdue attempted to downplay the significance of the deficit implications by reminding GOP voters who might still harbor concerns about fiscal largesse that it’s not really $2,000 if you consider that $600 was already going out anyway. And $1,400 extra is just an “increment.”
Loeffler made similar remarks earlier in an interview with Fox.
This is all about political preservation, folks. Trump blindsided his own party with a demand for checks that were even larger than Democrats pushed for, and GOPers who wouldn’t have given the idea a second look previously, were suddenly “delighted” to deposit $2,000 directly into the checking accounts of lower- and middle-income Americans. The most excited among them just happen to be the two who are facing an election next week. Imagine that.
Of course, that doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. While McConnell on Tuesday said the Senate would “address” the issue along with Trump’s other grievances, he rejected Schumer’s attempt to clear the bigger checks immediately.
Josh Hawley was ready to go. “We’ve got the votes. Let’s vote today,” he said, in a tweet.
Cue a McConnell smirk.