Republican Georgia Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler said Tuesday that they support $2,000 direct payments to most Americans, bringing them in line with President Donald Trump, whose supporters are vital to them in next week's runoff elections.
“President @realdonaldtrump is right — I support this push for $2,000 in direct relief for the American people,” Perdue tweeted Tuesday morning, shortly after Loeffler said on Fox News that she would back the higher payments. She added that she was proud to have supported Trump “100 percent of the time.”
Borh Perdue and Loeffler have faced heavy criticism from their Democratic opponents, documentary filmmaker Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock, for their opposition earlier this year to direct coronavirus relief payments.
Ossoff and Warnock have spent the past week issuing tweets and statements that effectively dared the Republicans to support Trump’s calls for bigger checks.
Perdue initially opposed $1,200 payments to individuals this spring, but he and Loeffler eventually voted for a $2 trillion package that passed with bipartisan support in March and included direct payments up to that amount.
Last week, they supported a spending package that provided additional payments of $600. After negotiations had ended and both chambers of Congress had sent him the bill, Trump derided that amount as inadequate.
While fellow Republicans who support bigger checks, including Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley, applauded the Georgians’ announcement, their Democratic opponents blasted them for their past opposition.
Ossoff and Warnock have also attacked their Republican opponents, both wealthy business people, for pandemic-related stock trades in a bet that voters will hold them accountable for months of congressional inaction while “working families” suffered.
Warnock noted that Loeffler had used the word “counterproductive” to describe a temporary boost to unemployment payments, though she did vote in march for a $600 boost that ran out in July and another $300 in the package Trump recently signed.
“Georgians learned long ago they can’t trust Kelly Loeffler to look out for anyone but herself,” Warnock said.
Perdue and Loeffler say their portfolios are managed by third parties and note they have been cleared of any wrongdoing by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Senate Ethics Committee.
Republican strategists told CQ Roll Call Tuesday that Perdue and Loeffler are likely betting that they stand more to gain from demonstrating steadfast support to Trump in the final days of the election, when the results could hinge on convincing Republican voters to show up at the polls. Both Republicans released ads last week touting their response to the pandemic.
Whether the Senate votes on a boost to the checks remained unclear Tuesday. Majority Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., objected to a request from Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., to set a Wednesday vote on a bill the House passed with bipartisan support Monday.
McConnell said during his opening remarks of the Senate session that the chamber would take up several issues Trump raised before he signed the spending package over the weekend. He included direct cash payments with changes to liability protections for internet companies and an investigation into election integrity.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee challenged Perdue and Loeffler to back up their support for bigger checks with calls for a vote.
“They were happy to take credit for an inadequate relief package, but only supported providing sufficient aid to Georgians after significant public pressure and still refuse to demand the Senate hold a vote on the bipartisan, House-passed measure to deliver $2,000 relief checks to the American people,” said DSCC spokesperson Helen Kalla.
More than 30 percent of registered Georgia voters have already cast ballots in the runoff elections. The polls close in the two runoffs on Jan. 5.
Niels Lesniewski contributed to this report.