Perry, Smucker buck Trump over $2,000 COVID-19 payments

Staff report
U.S. Congressmen Lloyd Smucker, left, and Scott Perry take the stage with President Donald Trump, right, at a "Keep America Great" rally at the Giant Center in Hershey Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2019. Bill Kalina photo

U.S. Reps. Scott Perry and Lloyd Smucker broke Monday night with President Donald Trump and opposed legislation that would send $2,000 checks to most Americans as part of the government's COVID-19 relief efforts.

Trump this past week blasted the $600 direct payments included in legislation that had been hammered out by congressional leaders and Trump's own White House, saying the direct payments should be substantially higher.

The president's sudden about-face put deficit-averse congressional Republicans, including Perry and Smucker, in a political bind about whether to buck their party's standard bearer. Meanwhile, Democrats lauded the proposal.

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On Monday, 44 Republicans joined 231 Democrats in support of the legislation, sending it to the Senate. Perry, of Carroll Township, and Smucker, of Lancaster, were joined by 128 other House Republicans in opposition. 

"Giving away more money we don’t have to people required to pay it back with interest (READ: you, your kids, and grandkids) using money they don’t have, for spending we don’t need, is breathtakingly irresponsible," Perry tweeted following the vote. 

In recent months, Perry has tied himself more closely to the outgoing president than Smucker. Earlier this month, Perry supported a lawsuit filed by Texas officials that would have disenfranchised tens of thousands of his own constituents. The lawsuit was part of Trump's monthlong bid to overturn the results of the November election. 

Smucker, however, did not join the more than 120 other House Republicans in support of the lawsuit, which was quickly thrown out by the U.S. Supreme Court. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., arrives as Republicans work during a rare weekend session to advance the confirmation of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, at the Capitol in Washington, Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

The effort to boost direct payments faces a tougher climb in the GOP-controlled Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is under pressure from a coalition of Trump's closest allies and Democrats to bring the bill to the floor for an up or down vote.

It's also become a significant political issue in Georgia, where a Jan. 5 runoff could determine control of the upper chamber.

Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, R-Georgia, in recent days came out in support of Trump's call to boost the payments. Both are challenged by well-funded Democrats and have aligned themselves closely with Trump ahead of the hotly contested election. 

However, Perry and Smucker did stick by the president in a fight over a $740 billion military funding package, which Trump this past week vetoed because it did not rescind liability protections for online social media platforms.

On Monday night, the House overrode Trump's veto by a 322-87 vote, and the Senate appeared poised Wednesday to follow suit. Perry and Smucker were among the Republicans opposed to the veto override.

On Twitter, the president ripped House Republican leadership who joined Democrats to override his veto, calling it a "disgraceful act of cowardice."