House Democrats vow new effort on economic aid as 117th Congress begins

WASHINGTON - House Democrats vowed Monday to renew efforts on economic assistance - including state and local aid and potentially $2,000 checks to individuals - in the 117th Congress that is now getting underway.

House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., said that the $2,000 checks amount to "unfinished business that should be continued as part of our effort to provide additional relief to the American people."

The House last week passed legislation providing for $2,000 relief checks, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., rejected the measure even though President Donald Trump was demanding it. Congress earlier approved a $900 billion coronavirus relief bill that included $600 checks, legislation that Trump ultimately signed even while criticizing the size of the checks as "measly."

Democrats anticipate writing a new relief bill once President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in Jan. 20. Its contours are uncertain, however, and the path forward will depend on the outcome of two Senate runoffs in Georgia on Tuesday that will determine which party controls the Senate.

"Our top priority as Democrats will continue to be to crush the virus, provide direct relief to every day Americans who are struggling, and to supercharge our economy," Jeffries said.

Jeffries and other House Democratic leaders addressed reporters at the Capitol on Monday, the second day of the 117th Congress.

Aid to state and local governments, which was left out of the most recent relief bill, remains a top priority for Democrats. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Sunday that "we owe them more."

"Our most urgent priority will be continuing to defeat the coronavirus, and defeat it we will" Pelosi said following her reelection as speaker.

Democratic Caucus Vice Chairman Rep. Pete Aguilar, D-Calif., said Monday that Democrats intend to "make sure that critical priorities we left behind, like state and local governments, are addressed in the future."

However, House Democrats often struggle to find unity even among themselves, a dynamic that could be exacerbated this year, as they govern with the smallest House majority of either party in 20 years. They begin the session with a 222-to-211 advantage.