Stimulus negotiations near tipping point as White House faces pressure from two sides


Is the stimulus package in trouble? Here’s the latest.


Storm clouds are gathering over the negotiations for the next stimulus package. After a weekend of talks to decide the specifics of a $1.8 trillion stimulus package proposal extended by the White House on Oct. 9, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, also the lead Democratic negotiator, presented a list of remaining objections on Sunday, including specific language on coronavirus testing, a child tax credit and the US census count. However, Pelosi continued to express hope, “I am optimistic that we can reach agreement before the election.”

Pelosi’s positivity belied the deadline of 48 hours to complete negotiations she presented Saturday, which effectively gives the White House until Tuesday to finalize a deal for it to have a chance at passing both chambers of Congress before the Nov. 3 election, which is just over two weeks away.

The message of hope to make a deal also starkly contrasts the message sent by Senate Republicans, who have attacked the White House proposal. On Tuesday, Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell will preside over a vote on a $500 billion stand-alone bill to extend the Paycheck Protection Program, a loan for businesses to help retain employees during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. On Wednesday, he’ll revive last month’s $500 billion “skinny” bill that Democrats blocked.

Both votes present the latest evidence that GOP senators could instead break with President Donald Trump, perhaps fearing for their personal reelection chances and the resulting “blood bath” if the election results hand Democrats control over both chambers of Congress and the presidency.

The two Senate votes this week also sweeps the spotlight from the tug-of-war between Democratic and White House negotiators to a battle of wills that see Republicans, who lead the Senate majority, defy Trump by rejecting the almost $2 trillion stimulus package that he so vocally supports.

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Next stimulus checks: What to expect


“I’m ready to sign a big, beautiful stimulus,” Trump said Oct. 15 during a town hall on NBC. “I want it to be big, I want it to be bold. Nancy Pelosi and I, if we agree to something, the Republicans will agree to it.”

Senate Republicans may have other ideas. “That’s where the administration is willing to go,” McConnell told reporters earlier that day from Kentucky, referring to the White House offer. “My members think half a trillion dollars, highly targeted, is the best way to go.” McConnell hasn’t been to the White House in two months, citing the handling of coronavirus protocols.

“[Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin] is negotiating a deal,” Larry Kudlow, the White House’s chief economic advisor, said on Fox Business on Friday. “If Speaker Pelosi wanted a deal, I think we could round up enough Senate Republicans to get a deal. But less than three weeks to go — I don’t know.”

Part of the holdup in getting the stimulus package to a vote, according to Pelosi, is finalizing the precise language of the bill. “Well, we’re seeking clarity,” Pelosi said Sunday on This Week, “Because actually, with all the due respect to some of the people in the president’s administration, they’re not legislators.” Pelosi went on to say the administration took out 55% of the language on testing and tracing. “But I’m hopeful.”

Even if the White House deal doesn’t come to an agreement by Tuesday, negotiations are expected to continue.

The impending election isn’t the only source of urgency when it comes to passing more stimulus aid. The US has surpassed 8 million known coronavirus cases, with new COVID hotspots surging across the midwest. Thursday, the Department of Labor announced a total of 886,000 new jobless claims for the week — up 77,000 from the previous week. And 14 million people who were helped by the CARES Act’s $600 per week unemployment benefit fell back into poverty after benefits expired, according to a new study from the Columbia University Center on Poverty and Social Policy (PDF).

“We need to get money to the American public now, the people that are most hurting,” Mnuchin told CNBC on Thursday. 

So what could happen next? Read on for more details on the bumpy path of stimulus talks. We update this story often.

How likely is it that the Senate’s stand-alone or ‘skinny’ bills will become law?

While McConnell plans to bring his Senate proposal to fund more payroll assistance to a vote on Tuesday, and vote again on a smaller standalone bill that failed to pass his chamber last month. While the “skinny” bill does include enhanced unemployment aidfor $300 extra per week, neither bill supports stimulus checks.

Pelosi has consistently rejected a stand-alone bill that is not tied to a larger aid package. In other words, she has said she would support a tailored bill if there are also assurances that a larger deal is also being worked on. 

It isn’t likely the Senate’s bills would pass the House, though some Democratic lawmakers have pushed for Pelosi to take a deal now rather than no deal. It’s hard to say what will happen, and if increasing pressure in the run-up to the election will cause any side’s stance to soften. 

The White House has also recently urged Congress to repurpose $130 billion in unused money from the payroll protection program that was part of the CARES Act. The money would fund new financial assistance for small businesses or the airline industry. (That isn’t enough to fund stimulus checks.)


Democrats and Republicans have disagreed on how much relief aid should be included in the stimulus package. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Could a new relief bill still pass before the election? 

With just a few weeks before the Nov. 3 election, Congress is running out of time to pass additional aid.

If talks fizzle before Nov. 3, Pelosi has said that Congress could pick up the thread on another economic rescue package following the election. It isn’t clear how the outcome of the election would speed up or delay the passage of a bill.

In addition to the office of president — where incumbent Trump faces off against former vice president Joe Biden — Congress could see a change to its membership along party lines, which could affect the shape of a final bill.

But with talks currently ongoing, we’ve suggested five possible dates, both before and after the November election. These are speculative only. If a bill does pass, here’s how quickly we think the IRS could send a second stimulus check.

When could a stand-alone stimulus bill or package pass?

House votes Senate votes President signs
Oct. 26 Oct. 27 Oct. 28
Nov. 9 Nov. 10 Nov. 11
Nov. 16 Nov. 17 Nov. 18
Nov. 23 Nov. 24 Nov. 25
Feb. 1, 2021 Feb. 2, 2021 Feb. 3, 2021

Why did Trump’s position keep changing?

Trump has been increasingly vocal in his support of a large stimulus bill, at one point saying he wanted to corral more stimulus money than Republicans and Democrats. 

But while being treated for COVID-19 with a powerful steroid known to have side effects, he instructed his team on Oct. 6 to stop negotiating on a new deal, directing Congress instead to pass a stand-alone bill for another round of $1,200 checks and renew payroll assistance for the airlines and other industries. 

By Oct. 9, he was encouraging negotiators to “go big” on a new stimulus bill and on Oct. 12 he urged fellow Republicans to “pull back” on the due process for Barrett’s confirmation hearings “and go for STIMULUS for the people!!!”

According to Trump on Oct. 6, his belief that a deal on a stimulus package wouldn’t be reached in the short time left and desire to quickly confirm Supreme Court associate justice nominee Amy Coney Barrett led to the decision. Barrett’s confirmation hearing began Oct. 12. On Thursday, he tweeted yet again that he was ready to sign a bill. 

Didn’t the House recently vote on a new stimulus bill?

On Oct. 1, the House of Representatives passed a revised Heroes Act that includes a second stimulus check and additional benefits such as enhanced unemployment benefits for tens of millions of Americans. The new House bill, endorsed primarily by Democrats, has little chance of advancing through the Republican-controlled Senate, though.

According to Pelosi, the vote on the revised Heroes bill was independent of ongoing negotiations with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. If Pelosi and Mnuchin do agree on a new proposal, a new bill would need to be separately drafted and voted on in both the House and Senate before being signed into law. The total cost of the package and funding allocations like a child tax credit have remained chief sticking points.

The vote is thought to provide cover for House Democrats as they campaign without a new relief bill, much as the Senate did earlier in September for Republican members with its $650 billion skinny bill. Like the skinny Senate bill, this new House proposal has little chance of advancing in the other chamber.

The vote is thought to provide cover for House Democrats as they campaign without a new relief bill, much as the Senate did earlier in September for Republican members with its $650 billion skinny bill. Like the skinny Senate bill, this new House proposal has little chance of advancing in the other chamber.


Will America pass a new stimulus bill? Both sides agree more aid is necessary.

Angela Lang/CNET

Do Republicans and Democrats agree on anything?

Proposals from both sides include another stimulus payment of up to $1,200 for individuals who meet the requirements, among topics like aid for airlines, enhanced unemployment insurance and extending the Paycheck Protection Program for businesses. Mnuchin has also said they’ve found agreement on areas like testing, contact tracing, vaccines and distribution. 

What happens next?

The situation is still in flux. For now, we wait to see if there are any developments. Anything could still happen. 

For more information, here’s how soon you might get your second stimulus check and what to know about the HEALS, CARES and Heroes stimulus bill proposals that could help inform a final package.