ATLANTA – President Donald Trump’s call to more than triple pandemic cash relief for individual Americans has scrambled political calculations made by Georgia’s two Republican senators in the closing week of their high-stakes runoff campaign.
Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler belatedly declared their support on Tuesday for one-time payments of $2,000 that Trump and Democrats endorse but most congressional Republicans oppose. The move came only after the two Georgians sidestepped the matter for days while celebrating the passage of a long-sought aid package that included smaller $600 payments.
Now, to maintain their alliance with the mercurial president, the senators also find themselves aligned with the very Democratic congressional forces they caricature as socialists who’d tax-and-spend the nation into bankruptcy if the Georgia contests go against the Republicans.
Democrats must sweep the Jan. 5 runoffs to force a 50-50 chamber with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris as the tiebreaking vote for control. Republicans need just one of the Georgia seats to maintain a majority.
Perdue told Fox & Friends in a Tuesday morning interview he’d be “delighted” to back a $1,400 increase in individual payments. He called it “appropriate” and “the right thing to do.” Loeffler said in a separate Fox News interview that she’d support the increase, as well: “Absolutely, we need to get relief to Americans now.”
Those statements came less than a day after House Democrats adopted the $2,000 relief stipend, openly crediting Trump’s request. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., followed Tuesday by blocking the measure from being considered in his chamber, though he’s scheduled a vote for Wednesday. That could allow Loeffler and Perdue to cast a “yes” vote on the record, giving them partial political cover even if the measure doesn’t pass.
Trump amplified the matter again Tuesday via Twitter. “Give the people $2000, not $600,” the president wrote. “They have suffered enough!”
Perdue’s and Loeffler’s campaign aides did not respond to Associated Press inquiries asking whether they asked McConnell to allow an up-or-down vote.