House defeats effort to prevent stimulus checks for undocumented immigrants

The House on Friday evening defeated a Republican effort to prevent undocumented immigrants from retroactively receiving stimulus payments amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Thirteen Democrats broke party lines and voted in favor of the GOP effort to strip language about the payments from Democrats’ $3 trillion coronavirus relief bill. The effort to amend Democrats’ broader HEROES Act at the eleventh hour failed in a 198-209 vote.

Congressional Democrats have pushed for the next coronavirus bill to grant economic relief to American citizens who filed taxes jointly with spouses who don’t have a Social Security number, after the Cares Act passed in March excluded those adults.

The HEROES Act would make those with an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) eligible for the payments. ITINs, which are issued by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), are used by immigrants to pay taxes and also foreign nationals abroad who have to file taxes in the U.S.

Republicans have argued that the $1,200 stimulus payments sent to Americans, aimed at alleviating the impact of the pandemic, should not go to workers who do not have Social Security numbers.

Rep. Denver Riggleman (R-Va.), who offered the motion to prevent the payments for undocumented individuals, argued during floor debate ahead of the vote that Congress should be prioritizing legislation helping U.S. citizens stay afloat amid the health crisis.

“Hidden amongst these poison pills is a provision that will change the ID requirement for the CARES Act rebate checks from Social Security number to taxpayer identification number. This switch will allow illegal immigrants and non-citizens to get checks they aren’t eligible for,” he said.

“I didn’t think a global pandemic meant it was time to stop helping American citizens who are desperate for assistance. Now, more than ever, we need to make sure these rebate checks go to Americans who need it,” he added.

Proponents of the payment provision have argued that the pandemic has affected all U.S. residents, regardless of immigration status, and have noted that individuals must have a taxpayer number to receive the money.

“There will be more cases tomorrow, more deaths this weekend, more economic hardship next week, but instead of worrying about these concerns the only thing Republicans can offer is regurgitated talking points about immigration,” said House Appropriations Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.). “Right now, the American people have focused on their own survival, and that of their families.”

“I want to make it very clear: COVID-19 does not discriminate or differentiate on immigration status,” she added.

Top Democrats whipped against the measure before it was voted down, voicing concerns to the caucus that its passage could derail the passage of the final relief measure, which passed later Friday evening.

Republicans have repeatedly used procedural moves to force vulnerable Democrats in swing districts to take difficult votes.

While Democratic leaders have blasted the procedural tactic as a partisan attempt to make Democrats look divided on certain issues, GOP lawmakers say that the votes are legitimate, noting they have successfully used the tool six times during the 116th Congress.

While the $3 trillion Heroes Act has passed the Democratic-led House, it faces an unlikely path in the Republican-controlled Senate, with GOP lawmakers railing against the measure, saying Democrats failed to negotiate with members across the aisle while drafting the bill. 
Updated: 10:21 p.m.
Tags Denver Riggleman Nita Lowey

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