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Florida Republicans divided on approval of $2,000 stimulus checks

U.S. Rep. Francis Rooney, a retiring Republican who was joined by Reps. John Rutherford and Mario Diaz-Balart, of Miami, in supporting the checks. The rest opposed or didn’t vote. Rep. Gus Bilirakis didn’t vote.
Sen. Marco Rubio with U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor.
Sen. Marco Rubio with U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor.
Published Dec. 30, 2020|Updated Dec. 30, 2020

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday blocked a vote to increase the value of stimulus checks going out next year to millions of Americans, delaying — or perhaps avoiding — an issue that is dividing Florida Republicans.

A day after the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill Monday to hike relief payments to $2,000 for every eligible adult, McConnell thwarted Democrats’ efforts to bring the proposal to a swift vote, indicating he wouldn’t allow a vote any time soon. Talking on the Senate floor, McConnell, however, made sure to mention President Donald Trump’s 11th hour push to send bigger COVID-19 relief payments to Americans, as well as the president’s demands for Congress to investigate dubious allegations of election fraud and crack down on social media companies.

“This week, the Senate will begin a process to bring these three priorities into focus,” McConnell said, without elaborating.

It remains unclear whether McConnell will allow a vote in the Senate to increase stimulus checks, which were limited to $600 a person in legislation signed Sunday by Trump. Some speculate he’ll tie all three of Trump’s priorities together in a single vote to complicate or otherwise prevent the passage of a proposal that, while backed by the president, has split a normally lockstep GOP and underscored the shifting alliances created by Trump’s loss last month to President-elect Joe Biden.

Already, Marco Rubio, Florida’s senior Republican senator, has come out in support of increased payments, while Republican Florida Sen. Rick Scott has yet to take a position on the issue.

“I share many of my colleagues’ concern[s] about the long-term effects of additional spending, but we cannot ignore the fact that millions of working class families across the nation are still in dire need of relief,” Rubio said in a statement Monday afternoon as the U.S. House prepared to vote.

When the House did vote, the $464 billion CASH Act passed with a 275-134 vote, a margin just wide enough to secure the required super-majority needed to pass. Helping the bill pass were 44 Republicans — including three from Florida — who bucked party leaders who spoke against the measure on the floor.

“Last night I supported an additional stimulus payment of $2,000 for the hard working Americans suffering financially from the deadly Covid virus,” tweeted U.S. Rep. Francis Rooney, a retiring Republican who was joined by Reps. John Rutherford and Mario Diaz-Balart, of Miami, in supporting the larger checks. “Thank you [House Speaker Nancy Pelosi] for swiftly bringing this to the House floor. It is my hope that [Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell] will do the same in the Senate.”

Eight of Florida’s 14 Republican congressmen voted against the measure, including outgoing Rep. Ross Spano of Dover and Rep. Vern Buchanan of Sarasota, both of whom represent parts of Hillsborough County. Three more didn’t vote, including Palm Harbor’s Rep. Gus Bilirakis. Republican Sarasota Rep. Greg Steube, who voted no, referred to the increased stimulus checks as an “unnecessary redistribution of wealth.”

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“Americans don’t need inadequate stimulus checks and forced government dependency to get them back on their feet. We need efforts to safely reopen and return back to normal,” Steube said.

Increasing the value of stimulus checks isn’t the only issue lingering in Washington over the holidays. McConnell said Tuesday that the Senate would vote Wednesday to potentially override Trump’s veto of a military spending bill. But independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has threatened to delay that vote if McConnell doesn’t allow the vote on COVID-19 relief payments to go forward.

How the Florida delegation voted on the $2,000 stimulus

Republicans

Yes: Diaz-BalartRooneyRutherford

No: BuchananMatt GaetzBrian MastBill PoseySpanoSteubeMichael WaltzDaniel Webster

Did not vote: BilirakisNeal DunnTed Yoho

Democrats

Yes: Kathy Castor, Charlie Crist, Val Demings, Ted Deutch, Lois Frankel, Alcee Hastings, Al Lawson, Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, Stephanie Murphy, Donna Shalala, Darren Soto, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Frederica Wilson.

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