Stimulus negotiations: Congress is back in session, here’s where a second check stands


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

Sarah Tew/CNET

Congress is back in session this week, but lawmakers don’t seem to be any closer to agreeing on the size of another stimulus relief bill, and whether or not it should include a second stimulus check. Though both sides are calling for compromise, neither seems willing to budge on its stance, so it remains unclear if new legislation will be passed before the Jan. 20 inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden.

Earlier this week, Biden called on Congress to come together and pass the $2.2 trillion Heroes Act that the House passed in May, which includes a second check of as much as $1,200 per person for eligible Americans and additional resources such as enhanced unemployment benefits. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is advocating for a bill that doesn’t include direct aid to the American people. He has said that the Heroes Act is too large and has advocated for a smaller, more focused $500 million bill. 

“The refusal of Democrats and Republicans to cooperate with one another is not due to some mysterious force beyond our control. It’s a conscious decision. It’s a choice that we make,” Biden said Monday during remarks in Delaware, as reported by The Hill. “If we can decide not to cooperate, then we can decide to cooperate.”

Due to the stalemate, there have been no new conversations happening about another round of coronavirus relief, which means it’s unlikely that Americans will see a second round of stimulus checks before Christmas, according to Politico

“We’re going into a very dark winter,” Biden said. “Things are going to get much tougher before they get easier.”

Meanwhile, the White House appears to have backed away from its $1.9 trillion pre-election proposal and President Donald Trump broke his silence on the stimulus bill on Saturday, tweeting that a bill should pass that is both “big” and “focused,” a contradiction. Biden has a stimulus plan with a second stimulus check, but he can’t act on it until after he’s inaugurated on Jan. 20.

Lawmakers face a lame-duck period between now and the Jan. 3 swearing-in of the next Congress that represents a last-chance effort to pass more economic relief before the end of 2020. Biden has said, however, he doesn’t want to wait the more than two months until he’s sworn into office for relief to come, even if Trump gets the credit as one of his last presidential acts.

“There are a lot of things that are going to have to wait till Joe Biden is president, but this is not one of them,” Biden’s choice for chief of staff, Ronald Klain, said on Sunday’s Meet the Press. The few remaining COVID-19 benefits are set to expire Dec. 31. 

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Next stimulus checks: What to expect


Part of the debate is over how much each side believes we need more coronavirus relief. Conservative economists and politicians, including McConnell, see the latest signs of economic recovery as a signal that a smaller package can take the country over the hump until the COVID-19 vaccine is ready for mass distribution

Last week, McConnell said the news was looking better. On Tuesday, he repeated that he was willing to pass a $500 billion bill. “Republicans have tried for weeks to pass another targeted rescue package,” he tweeted Tuesday

Others disagree, pointing out that the vaccine won’t be ready for most people for another six months or more, during which time thousands more people could die every day and the economy could once again falter.

“It is essential that this bill have sufficient funding and deliver meaningful relief to the many Americans who are suffering,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer wrote in a Tuesday letter to McConnell. “For the sake of the country, we ask that you come to the table and work with us to produce an agreement that meets America’s needs in this critical time.”

Here’s what we know about where negotiations stand right now, and what could happen before the end of the year.


Stimulus check negotiations could still go up in smoke if two conflicting sides can’t reach a deal.

Sarah Tew/CNET

What could happen between now and the Jan. 20 inauguration?

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

A stimulus bill is completed before Jan. 20: 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 stimulus deal is finalized and fails in either the Senate or House: In this situation, the Democrats and Republicans could advance their own proposals that might pass in their majority chambers, but fail (or fail to be considered) by the other. In this case, Congress might try again after Biden is sworn in as president.

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. As sitting president, Trump would need to sign the bill into law for it to take effect.

Talks once again fall apart until after 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 30 Dec 1 Dec 2
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 this $2.2 trillion stimulus package still matters

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.

It provides the framework Pelosi is working from, however, 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 Republicans and Democrats do 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, what you should do to speed up the delivery of a potential second check, and what to know about the HEALS, CARES and Heroes stimulus bill proposals that could help inform a final package.


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