Most of Virginia’s Representatives Approved Stimulus Checks. Three Said No.

By Brian Carlton

December 29, 2020

Cline, Wittman and Griffith all rejected the proposal to increase stimulus checks to $2,000.

WASHINGTON D.C.-Most of Virginia’s U.S. House delegation said yes to $2,000 stimulus checks Monday. Three, however, said they couldn’t support it.

After President Trump signed a COVID-19 relief bill Sunday, that guaranteed anyone making $75,000 or less would get a $600 stimulus check. But Democrats and the White House both called for higher numbers. On Monday, House Democrats introduced H.R. 9051, which would add $1,400 to that already approved $600. That bill received support from both parties, passing with a 275-134 veto proof majority.

Aside from the direct $600 checks, the COVID-19 relief bill revives a weekly pandemic jobless benefit boost — this time $300, through March 14 — as well as a popular Paycheck Protection Program of grants to businesses to keep workers on payrolls. It extends eviction protections, adding a new rental assistance fund.

The COVID-19 package also offers billions of dollars for vaccine purchases and distribution, for virus contact tracing, public health departments, schools, universities, farmers, food pantry programs and other institutions and groups facing hardship in the pandemic.

Rep. Ben Cline (R-Botetourt), Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-Salem) and Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Westmoreland), were not part of the majority that approved the bill. Each man claimed they were following the president’s orders, even though they were rejecting the $2,000 checks he wanted.

A Fiscal Claim

Two of the three said in order for them to support this bill, Democrats needed to make cuts elsewhere. That meant either repealing in some other part of the relief bill or in the omnibus budget, which Trump also signed into law Sunday. However, Griffith and Cline didn’t provide specifics as to what they wanted cut. In fact, neither man spoke up to request cuts during discussion of the bill on the House floor. As a result, no one ever even heard, let alone voted on, their request.

Both men are consistent, however. They voted no last week as well, when the COVID-19 relief package came to the floor.

Dogwood wasn’t able to get in touch with Rep. Wittman on Monday and he didn’t put out any statements explaining his no vote. However, a look over the last week shows similar concerns to those raised by Griffith and Cline. During the House’s Christmas Eve session, Wittman asked for all foreign aid to be removed from the omnibus budget. He accused House members of putting the money in, but those foreign aid dollars had been requested by the Trump administration’s state department. When Wittman’s request was rejected, he also voted no.

Stimulus Checks Go to the Senate

Now the checks go to the Senate, where they face an uncertain future. In fact, Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refuses to guarantee the bill even makes it to the floor for a vote.

Senators return to session today. Republicans and Democrats alike called for the bill to go for a vote.

“Glad to see the House pass $2,000 stimulus checks,” Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine wrote on Twitter. “Providing meaningful and direct support is a critical bridge to recovery. I urge the Senate to follow suit and make this happen.”

If McConnell refuses to let the bill go for a vote, then it will just die in the Senate. That means the $600 payments Trump approved on Sunday will go out instead.

Griffith, Cline Also Reject NDAA

House members also voted Monday night on another override. Trump had vetoed the National Defense Authorization Act last week. The defense bill, which has been voted on every year since 1961, gives U.S. troops a 3% pay raise.

It also authorizes more than $740 billion in military programs and construction.

Trump vetoed the bill because he wanted it to include one more piece. He wants to eliminate Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act and believed that should be included in the defense budget.

Section 230 protects media platforms like FaceBook and Twitter from being held legally liable for what their users say. If it goes away, all platforms will crack down on what’s said, because otherwise they could face lawsuits.

Trump claims Section 230 doesn’t work, as he believes the platforms were biased against him during his failed re-election campaign.

House members mainly ignored the president’s request, voting by an overwhelming 322-87 majority to override the veto. Cline and Griffith were among the 87 who refused to support the override.

In a statement sent out late Monday, Cline said his vote had nothing to do with Section 230. Instead, he voted against the defense budget because he wants to bring troops home.

“Supporting our men and women in uniform means not having them serve countless deployments to fight endless wars,” Cline said. “This year’s National Defense Authorization Act limits the President’s ability to bring them home and that is why I voted to uphold the veto.”

He’s referring to a political fight involving U.S. troops in Germany. Pentagon officials in July said they plan to withdraw 12,000 of the 36,000 troops in the country. This NDAA simply says before that happens, Congress wants a report proving the withdraw won’t have a negative impact on military readiness.

Brian Carlton is Dogwood’s managing editor. You can reach him at [email protected].

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