Rep. Justin Amash, formerly a Republican and currently an Independent, is among the five Michigan members of Congress to vote against the $2,000 coronavirus stimulus. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Rep. Justin Amash, formerly a Republican and currently an Independent, is among the five Michigan members of Congress to vote against the $2,000 coronavirus stimulus. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

The House passed a measure to boost coronavirus relief payments to $2,000 on Monday. But five Michiganders in the lower house of Congress opposed it. 

DETROIT, Mich.—The economic hardships felt in communities hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic continue as the virus rages on, but the stimulus signed by President Donald Trump over the weekend has fallen far short of Americans’ needs. Five conservatives Michigan sent to Congress opposed an effort Monday to further help struggling families.

“People are hurting across America,” Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Dearborn) told The Detroit News. “They need a helping hand. They need compassion. And they need action.”

Americans will receive a second coronavirus relief payment of only $600, a fact the internet has thoroughly lambasted on social media. That’s half of the original relief payment and brings the sum total of direct Congressional support Americans have seen to $1,800, an average of $200 per month. Nearly 7% of Michiganders are out of work, and in the metro Detroit area the number is more than 9%. And those numbers are on the rise.

The latest stimulus falls short of the $2,000 Trump demanded for the December coronavirus relief package, which he delayed signing due to the unsatisfactory relief payment. But the House of Representatives passed legislation Monday to make up the difference. If signed into law, it would boost the relief checks by $1,400. 

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The legislation passed the House with bipartisan support, but it is unclear whether the Republican-controlled Senate will even vote on it. That further underscores the impact of McConnell’s stewardship over the Senate and, by extension, the importance of Georgia’s Jan. 5 Senatorial election in either reaffirming or ending McConnell’s control of the chamber. 

“We took a recorded vote with Democrats voting overwhelmingly to provide larger checks to struggling American families,” Rep. Andy Levin (D-Bloomfield) told MLive. “Now, we will see whether Republicans who control the Senate will allow Americans to receive larger checks or will block them.”

The Five Michiganders in Congress Who Voted Against Relief

The original coronavirus relief payments made a world of difference in metro Detroit, according to Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-Southfield).

“It allowed people to pay their rent and stay in their homes, and without it, it was one of the scariest times,” she told The ‘Gander.

But Michiganders have been without any similar support since the bulk of the last round was distributed in April and May. That left Michiganders like DeMarco Wright, Garrett Levis, and Lenard Lazich all facing different financial struggles long after May, without the continued support that was instrumental early in the pandemic. 

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Despite this, five members of Michigan’s Congressional delegation opposed the measure to boost the next relief payment. Conservative former-Republicans Reps. Justin Amash (I-Cascade) and Paul Mitchell (I-Dryden), both retiring, joined Republican Reps. John Moolenaar (R-Midland), Bill Huizenga (R-Zeeland), and Tim Walberg (R-Tipton) in voting against the legislation.

A week before voting against the expanded direct relief, Huizenga criticized House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) for settling on an aid package with too little support for Michigan businesses. Similarly, Walberg acknowledged the December relief package as signed was imperfect, but opposed direct support to Michiganders. 

“With the recent approval of two vaccines and a COVID relief deal in hand, we are ending this incredibly trying year on a hopeful note,” Walberg said in a statement following passage of the package including $600 checks. “While [this] bill is not perfect, Michigan families in the midst of hard times cannot wait until the new year for relief.”

Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Flint) voted for the package including $600 as well, but noted that it simply wasn’t enough. Kildee also made it clear that the opposition from representatives like Walberg has been a roadblock to more meaningful relief packages throughout the pandemic. 

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“I strongly support $2,000 direct payments to Americans. Democrats have consistently pushed for higher payments, but Republicans have for months opposed larger stimulus checks,” he said during floor debate Monday. “As millions of Americans this holiday season struggle to put food on the table or keep a roof over their head, Congress must do more to provide relief. Democrats and President Trump support $2,000 direct payments—now Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell must allow for a vote on this relief immediately.”

Whether or not McConnell will is, at best, uncertain. Despite Trump’s preference for the larger direct support, the majority leader has remained opposed to it and has often used his position and self-described role of “grim reaper” to prevent issues he would rather avoid from seeing a vote. If the proposal actually got a vote, though, there’s a reasonable likelihood the $2,000 direct support would be approved.

McConnell signaled his likely rejection of the $2,000 relief on Tuesday, however, when squashing an effort on the part of Senate Democrats to expedite the approval of the House bill. McConnell said the bolstered support would be considered along two unrelated Trump proposals, according to Bloomberg, but would not commit to bringing it to a vote.