Georgia Republican Senator David Perdue lobbied Donald Trump last week to sign the pandemic relief bill he’d criticized, concerned that the president’s delay would harm his and Senator Kelly Loeffler’s prospects in the Jan. 5 runoff elections, according to people familiar with the matter.
In a Christmas-Day phone call to Trump, Perdue argued that the bill was vital for unemployment benefits, coronavirus-vaccine distribution and a moratorium on evictions. Perdue also contacted White House allies including National Economic Council director Larry Kudlow and the president’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, to try to pressure the president, the people said.
Perdue and Senator Lindsey Graham, who visited Trump at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida over Christmas, also argued in favor of Trump sending Congress a list of spending items in the bill to eliminate, known as rescissions, after he signed it. Lawmakers are expected to ignore the request.
The people familiar with the matter asked not to be identified because the conversations were private. A spokesman for Perdue’s campaign declined to comment.
Trump grudgingly signed the $2.3 trillion bill late Sunday, a delay that caused a one-week lapse in unemployment benefits for millions of American workers. He has demanded that Congress increase direct payments to Americans to $2,000 each, from $600, and pass legislation eliminating or limiting a liability shield for social media companies that have censored or fact-checked some of Trump’s election-related tweets.
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Control of the Senate — and Republican hopes of obstructing President-elect Joe Biden’s agenda next year — rests on the outcome of the two Georgia runoff elections. It isn’t clear whether Loeffler also personally lobbied Trump to sign the stimulus.
A White House spokesperson didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
Perdue’s opponent, Democrat Jon Ossoff, has tried to hang Trump’s delay in signing the relief bill around the Republican senator’s neck. Over the weekend, his campaign asked Atlanta TV stations to pull a Perdue ad claiming the senator “delivered” the $908 billion relief package because Trump hadn’t signed it, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Ossoff’s campaign noted that Perdue has repeatedly said he opposes direct payments to Americans as part of stimulus measures, as well as expanded unemployment benefits, at one point calling it “an incentive not to come back to work.”
“David Perdue hasn’t spent a single second making a public case for his constituents to get direct relief, but when it comes to a Hail Mary to save his collapsing campaign, he’s willing to call the president directly to save himself. Those are his priorities,” an Ossoff spokeswoman, Miryam Lipper, said in a statement.
Perdue hasn’t said whether he would support raising payments under the new relief bill to $2,000, as Trump has demanded. Ossoff has promised to support the $2,000 payments.
— With assistance by Mario Parker
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