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Trump complicates Georgia Republicans’ COVID-19 relief message

Loeffler and Perdue touted their response to the pandemic in new ads before president’s comments

President Donald Trump’s decision to slam the latest round of pandemic relief from Congress could complicate matters for Georgia’s two Republican senators, who were touting the aid package ahead of their runoff elections on Jan. 5.

In a video posted Tuesday night on Twitter, Trump called the massive spending bill that Congress passed Monday, which included $900 billion in pandemic relief, a “disgrace.” He said Americans should receive $2,000 in stimulus checks as opposed to the $600 included in the package. 

The president’s remarks came several hours after both Georgia Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler launched new television ads highlighting their response to the coronavirus crisis. Their Democratic opponents, Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, seized on Trump’s comments, calling on the two Republicans to back increased payments.

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Loeffler appeared open to supporting the $2,000 checks, but added a caveat. 

“I’ll certainly look at supporting it — if it repurposes wasteful spending,” she said at a campaign event Wednesday.

Perdue’s campaign did not respond to multiple requests for comments. He has opposed direct payments in the past but supported the latest round of relief, and he touted the $600 checks in an ad released Tuesday.

Ossoff and Warnock, who have made COVID-19 relief an issue in the runoffs, took advantage of Trump’s comments to sharpen their criticisms of the senators.

Ossoff, a former congressional aide who is challenging Perdue, said the $600 checks were a “joke.” After the president’s video was released Tuesday night, the Democrat tweeted, “$2,000 checks now.”

Warnock, a pastor who faces Loeffler in the special election runoff, called on her to back Trump’s proposal.

“Donald Trump is right, Congress should swiftly increase direct payments to $2,000,” he said in a statement Wednesday. “Once and for all Senator Loeffler should do what’s best for Georgia instead of focusing on what she can do for herself.”

Perdue and Loeffler will have to return to Washington after Christmas if Trump were to veto the fiscal 2021 defense authorization bill, as he has promised to do. It is unclear how long they may be stuck on Capitol Hill if he were to also veto the spending and virus aid package.

Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates both Georgia runoff elections, which will determine which party controls the Senate, as Toss-Ups.

Jennifer Shutt and Niels Lesniewski contributed to this report.

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