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Congress and the White House have officially moved back the goalposts on the next COVID relief bill.


Angela Lang/CNET

Negotiations on a stimulus bill that would include a second stimulus check and extend unemployment aid have once again hit a wall, with both sides blaming each other for standing in the way of a COVID relief bill everyone agrees the US desperately needs. 

In the end, it may be the results of the Nov. 3 election that help determine the course of the stimulus aid — both what it contains and how soon the funding could go into effect.

Depending on who wins, the current government may be more motivated to pass a bill before January — or not. An earlier passage would mean that Secretary Treasury Steven Mnuchin, who represents the Republican White House administration in stimulus talks with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi representing the Democrats, could send the first stimulus checks within a week of a bill being signed into law, he said in August.

Pelosi said Thursday in a press conference that she still wants to pass a sweeping stimulus package in the “lame duck” period before the presidential inauguration Jan. 20, citing her assurance that Democratic candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden will win. 

Earlier this week, President Donald Trump promised that after the election, he’ll deliver “the best stimulus package you’ve ever seen,” seemingly based on the condition that he’ll win and that the House of Representatives and Senate have Republican majorities.

Biden has published the outline of a stimulus plan of his own and has largely been leading the polls. Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic is a central part of Biden’s campaign. Experts acknowledge that polls are imperfect and battleground states are of critical importance. (If you voted by mail, here’s how to track your ballot.)

The timeline is important, since the lame-duck period between a general election and the inauguration of the next presidential term is a notorious dead zone when it comes to passing new legislation, with the exception of emergency measures like avoiding a US government shutdown on Dec. 11. 


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This period from Nov. 4 to Jan. 19 is also seen as the best shot a stimulus package has to pass before Jan. 20, the start of the next presidential term. However, it’s unclear what might happen if the results of the election were to shift the political majorities of the House of Representatives and the Senate. 

“We’ll come back in November. The question might be, will there be something then?” Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby, a Republican from Alabama, said on Monday, Bloomberg reported. The Senate is now in recess until after the election. A bill is said to go through this committee before reaching a vote.

Read moreYou don’t have to be a US citizen living in American to get a stimulus check

The consequences of delayed COVID-19 relief aid on the economy and struggling Americans are palpable in the numbers. Of the companies represented in the S&P 500 — a group of top-tier firms used to indicate overall stock market performance — 97% have fallen on Wall Street since Monday, Market Watch reported. The US has surpassed 8.8 million known coronavirus cases and over 227.6 thousand related deaths, according to John Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Resource Center. And without more federal stimulus aid, state budgets could fall short by as much as $434 billion through 2022, according to a report from Moody’s Analytics.

Talks have been on-again, off-again for months, as the US continues to rack up coronavirus cases and deaths as a result. The US is undergoing a third surge of coronavirus infections across the US. Several aides to Vice President Mike Pence have tested positive for COVID-19, including his chief of staff, underscoring soon after Trump’s own hospitalization with the coronavirus that the pandemic is of ongoing concern. Meanwhile, projections of long-term job losses as a result of the virus continue to alarm.

What happens now, and how could it affect Americans and the economy? Here’s what we know today. We update this story with new information when it’s available.

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


Sarah Tew/CNET

4 things could happen after the Nov. 3 election

For now, White House and Democratic negotiators seem committed to continue work on a stimulus bill. “Let’s keep working so that we can do it after the election,” Pelosi said Oct. 21. 

Here are some possible scenarios that could play out:

A White House offer is completed after Nov. 3: An agreement is made and the current House and Senate vote. If Trump signs it into law, stimulus checks and other aid would likely begin to go out within weeks, with certain groups receiving financial help before the end of 2020.

A White House offer is finalized and fails in the Senate: In this situation, the House could vote on a deal after the election, but the current Senate, which is Republican-led, could vote it down, so the bill would not become law. In this case, Congress might try again after the next members of the House of Representatives and Senate convene Jan. 3, 2021.

Some funding could be included in a bill that also funds the government past Dec 11: It’s possible that one piece of funding, for example a stimulus check, unemployment aid or an extension of the eviction stay, could make it into a bill to keep the government funded past Dec. 11 and avoid a shutdown.

Talks stop until after the election results are in: If talks grind to a halt after the election, it’s likely they’ll restart in some capacity after the inauguration in January. It’s been speculated that if Trump loses the election and if the Senate loses its majority, there will be little incentive for Congress to pass a sweeping package until 2021 during the transition.

To help visualize when a bill could pass, we’ve come up with five possible dates, both before and after the November election. If a bill does pass that includes a direct payment, here’s how quickly we think the IRS could send a second stimulus check.

When could a stimulus bill or package pass?

House votes Senate votes President signs
Nov. 9 (Senate back from recess) Nov. 10 (If House returns early from recess) Nov. 12 (Nov. 11 is Veteran’s Day)
Nov. 16 (House back in session) Nov. 17 Nov. 18
Nov. 23 Nov. 24 Nov. 25
Dec. 11 Dec. 12 Dec. 13
Feb. 1, 2021 Feb. 2, 2021 Feb. 3, 2021

How the House’s stimulus bill from early October is still in play

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, was not expected to advance through the Republican-controlled Senate, and indeed has not.

However, it provides the framework Pelosi is working from, and could figure into future negotiations, depending on election results that could potentially shift the balance one way or another.

The vote was 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. 

What do Republicans and Democrats agree on?

Proposals from both sides have included 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. 

Although the Senate’s targeted bills, which did not advance, did not include stimulus checks, Republicans (including those in the Senate) have supported them. 

Here are more details on the biggest points of contention between the White House Republicans and the Democrats.

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

source: cnet.com

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