Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue of Georgia said on Tuesday that they backed President Donald Trump‘s call for $2,000 direct payments to Americans, while remaining coy about whether they would break from him over his recent veto of the National Defense Authorization Act.
The two Republicans, who are in tight runoff races, were quick to embrace the idea of supplementing the amount of direct aid handed out to those making less than $75,000, casting it as a continuation of their steadfast support of the outgoing president.
“I’ve stood by the president 100 percent of the time,” Loeffler said on Fox News. “I’m proud to do that, and I’ve said, absolutely, we need to get relief to Americans now, and I will support that.”
Perdue on Tuesday also tweeted his support for upping the direct aid to $2,000.
“President @realDonaldTrump is right — I support this push for $2,000 in direct relief for the American people,” he posted.
Over the weekend Trump reluctantly signed a joint coronavirus relief package and federal spending bill that includes payments of $600, but the president threw the fate of the legislation in doubt for days while complaining that the amount was insufficient.
Trump’s demands have put Republicans in a bind, forcing them to either tack on hundreds of billions of dollars to the coronavirus deal — which was held up for months in Congress over disagreements about its price tag — or buck the president and his legion of die-hard devotees.
The House passed a bill on Monday to boost those payments, with more than 40 Republicans joining the Democratic majority in favor of the increase.
Loeffler’s and Perdue’s comments come after Democrats spent months bludgeoning them for not doing enough to pass a relief deal. Democratic challengers Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff pushed the pair to a Jan. 5 runoff that will decide which party controls the Senate next year.
“Senators Perdue and Loeffler were quick to act to protect their personal stock portfolios, but dragged their feet for months when it came to supporting the economic relief that Georgians desperately need,” a Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesperson, Helen Kalla, said in a statement.
Protecting the two endangered senators — and Republicans’ grasp on the chamber — was on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s mind while the relief package was being negotiated, with him reportedly telling Senate Republicans the pair were “getting hammered” over the impasse.
Trump is scheduled to campaign with Loeffler and Perdue in Georgia on Monday as part of an all-out effort to ensure Republicans have a lever on power when President-elect Joe Biden takes office next month.
Loeffler has proudly aligned herself with Trump since being appointed to the seat by Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia a year ago, with the perfect voting record a major feature of her pitch to voters.
However, her “100 percent” line may be in jeopardy as the Senate is expected to vote by the end of the month to override Trump’s recent veto of the National Defense Authorization Act. The House voted to do so on Monday, positioning the bill to become the first successful override during Trump’s tenure.
The override vote in the Senate would force Loeffler to side with either Trump or the nation’s military. The senator was circumspect on Tuesday in answering which way she would vote on the forthcoming override, underscoring the awkward position the president put Republicans in.
“President Trump has been a huge champion for our military and rebuilding it and securing our national defense, and we’re going to continue to make sure that we support our men and women in the military,” she said. “Georgia is an incredibly important military state in this country, and I’ll always stand with our men and women in the military, and I thank President Trump for fighting for them.”
Perdue also avoided answering whether he would vote to override the president‘s veto.
“We‘ve been working for the past three years to rebuild our military, to stand up to this China threat that we now see so vividly,“ he said on Tuesday in a Fox News interview. “What we can‘t do is go through a period of time that was under Obama and Biden when they cut our military 25 percent again.“
To further the drama of the NDAA override, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has vowed to filibuster the vote unless the Senate also takes up a vote on increasing direct-aid payments to $2,000.
The tactic has the potential to drag out the process for days, keeping Loeffler and Perdue tied up in Washington during the homestretch of their runoff campaigns.
A handful of other Republican senators have also lined up behind the enhanced checks, but the fate of the effort remains in limbo. McConnell blocked Democrats on the Senate floor on Tuesday — a move that quickly drew Trump‘s ire.
“Unless Republicans have a death wish, and it is also the right thing to do, they must approve the $2000 payments ASAP,” the president tweeted Tuesday afternoon.