Oregon Rep. Kurt Schrader bucks party in opposing $2,000 stimulus checks

By Dirk VanderHart (OPB)
Portland, Ore. Dec. 29, 2020 9:02 p.m.

The Democratic politician says the more generous payments risk giving money to people who don’t need it.

U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader has long been the most moderate Democrat in the state’s congressional delegation. On Monday, he became an outlier among the national party.

Oregon U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader speaks in support of reproductive rights after a Planned Parenthood event in downtown Portland on Friday, May 31, 2019.

Oregon U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader speaks in Portland on May 31, 2019. Schrader is one of just two Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives to oppose proposed $2,000 stimulus checks.

Meerah Powell / OPB


Schrader was one of just two Democrats to vote against a bill that would increase stimulus checks taxpayers will receive next year from $600 a person to $2,000. Only U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-Illinois, joined Schrader and 130 Republican lawmakers in opposing the proposal, which passed the chamber handily.

Schrader, a member of the moderate Blue Dog Democrats, went further than a simple no vote. He took to the chamber floor to excoriate a bill he said was being pushed by “extremists on both sides of the political spectrum.”

Those remarks, and Schrader’s vote, have spurred withering responses from progressives on both the local and national stage.

“Schrader isn’t concerned whether the working poor survive this pandemic or not,” tweeted Milwaukie Mayor Mark Gamba, who lost a Democratic primary challenge to Schrader in this year. “He has never represented the people of his district. Now it’s clear to everyone.”


But Schrader, whose district touches the Portland suburbs and a long stretch of coastal and Central Oregon, stood by his position Tuesday.

“We all live in a glass house here, but I do feel strongly that we shouldn’t be making rash decisions based on tweets from an erratic president of the United States or different extremist groups that don’t represent the mainstream of what I think America needs and wants,” Schrader told OPB.

The congressman’s central objection to the stimulus package: He says it will offer relief to people who don’t need it when more focused programs targeting, say, childcare costs or helping employers pay workers, would be better.

“Let’s address those needs,” he said. “Let’s not give them a one-time check that frankly is not targeted to those people with those needs.”

Schrader raised the hypothetical case of a family with three children that makes $150,000 a year, the upper limit for receiving the full stimulus amount under the proposal. Since dependents qualify for payments, that family could receive $10,000 in payments, a prospect Schrader called “ridiculous.”

The congressman also said that, since incomes for eligible taxpayers would be determined by past income tax filings, many people who might now receive stimulus checks could in fact be making more money than in the past. According to the state, Oregon’s median household income was roughly $63,000 as of last year.

Schrader was a member of the bipartisan “Problem Solvers Caucus” that earlier this year proposed a $1.5 trillion relief package, portions of which were included in a new $900 billion stimulus bill that Congress passed last week. He says more of that proposal should be on the table if Congress wants to spend nearly $500 billion.

Schrader was the only Oregon representative of either party to oppose the new stimulus proposal, dubbed the CASH Act, in a vote Monday evening. But his stance appears likely to prevail now that the bill is in the Senate.

Though President Donald Trump favors the idea of $2,000 stimulus checks, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, blocked a vote on Tuesday.