‘That’s job one’: A major hurdle to a stimulus deal before 2020 could go away


Will a political divide keep stimulus negotiations apart? There’s new hope for a compromise.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The US may see a new stimulus bill before the end of 2020 after all. On Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that Congress should pass another COVID-19 relief package before January. 

“I think we need to do it and I think we need to do it before the end of the year. I think now that the election’s over the need is there and we need to sit down and work this out,” he said during a news conference. The Senate returns from recess Nov. 9.

“This [virus] is not going to go away until we kill it. So that’s Job 1.” On Wednesday, the US surpassed 100,000 new coronavirus cases in a single day, hitting a new record high.

McConnell’s comments are a sudden about-face for the Senate leader, who said Oct. 30 that approving more economic stimulus would be “something we’ll need to do right at the beginning of the year.” In October, McConnell told the White House not to work out a COVID-19 relief deal with Democrats. As of Thursday morning, the Senate appeared to have held on to its Republican majority, with McConnell likely to retain his role as majority leader.

Even while the shift in timeline brings a fresh wave of hope for the plodding and contentious stimulus negotiations — a process from which McConnell, a career lawmaker, has been conspicuously absent — exactly what the bill will contain remains an open question. (Democratic candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden has a stimulus plan of his own.)

With Republicans gaining seats in the House of Representatives, the Democratic-led chamber and its current leader, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, may have trouble pushing through their objectives, regardless of who the president is. Without a full democratic sweep in Congress, Pelosi may lose leverage on a sweeping bill. 

The fates of a second stimulus check, extra weekly unemployment benefits for millions of Americans and aid for coronavirus testing are unknown as well. Although McConnell has favored another direct payment in the past, his recent efforts have been to try to pass narrow pieces of legislation that come in at a fraction of the cost of sweeping omnibus proposals and do not include more stimulus checks.

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Next stimulus checks: What to expect


Economists have forecasted that surging cases of COVID-19 combined with a lapse in the few remaining stimulus benefits left will hobble the economy and put “millions of Americans” at risk of having power and water shut off and not being able to afford groceries. (Read more about the K-shaped recovery.) 

“The lack of support during the fourth quarter will hurt consumers and small businesses,” Brian Nick, chief investment strategist at Nuveen, told CNN, adding that there may be no fourth-quarter growth without additional stimulus.

There’s additional pressure, too. A new bill of some sort will need to be passed to avoid a US government shutdown on Dec. 11. It’s possible that stimulus funding of some sort will makes it into that bill. 

Before the election, President Donald Trump made his position clear. “We will have a tremendous stimulus package immediately after the election,” he said Oct. 30. Trump seemingly based his commitment on the condition of him winning and the House of Representatives and Senate solidifying Republican majorities. 

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.


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

Sarah Tew/CNET

What could happen between now and the inauguration?

Here are some possible scenarios that could play out over the coming weeks.

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 on Jan. 3.

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 once again fall apart until after the Jan. 20: If partisan differences keep a bill from forming or passing, it’s likely they’ll restart in some capacity after the inauguration in January.

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. 23 Nov. 24 Nov. 25
Dec. 11 Dec. 12 Dec. 13
Feb. 1, 2021 (after inauguration) Feb. 2, 2021 Feb. 3, 2021
Feb. 16 (Feb. 15 is President’s Day) Feb. 16 Feb. 17

Why the House’s Oct. 1 stimulus bill could still play a role

On Oct. 1, the House of Representatives passed a revised Heroes Act that included 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