Stimulus package: Will the US see a quick deal before 2020 ends? Today’s update


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

Sarah Tew/CNET

With 58 days until the Jan. 20 inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden, new COVID-19 cases that continue to spike across the US and the final economic protections drying up in a little over a month, the pressure to restart negotiations on the next stimulus bill continues to mount.

Biden, along with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, have called on Congress to pass a sweeping economic rescue package before the end of the year to assist those struggling through the economic downturn. 

“Congress should come together and pass a COVID relief package like the Heroes Act that the House passed six months ago,” Biden said on Nov. 16, referring to the $2.2 trillion stimulus package Democrats have been pushing for passage since May, which would include a second stimulus check and funding for economic relief including enhanced unemployment benefits.

Behind the scenes, however, Biden’s transition team is reportedly urging Democratic leaders in Congress to strike a deal now with Congressional Republicans to get more aid before the end of the year, the New York Times reported, even if that means agreeing to a smaller package favored by the GOP. On Monday, a transition insider denied the claim, according to a tweet from Washington Post reporter Jeff Stein.

Republicans, led by Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, have put their support behind a smaller $500 billion bill that would renew some benefits authorized under the CARES Act and provide funding for state and local governments but at a lower level than Democrats propose. The Republican plan also would not include a second direct payment.

“American workers should not lose their jobs needlessly when a second round of the job-saving Paycheck Protection Program for the hardest-hit small businesses would make a huge difference,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Nov. 20. “Our medical system should not be denied additional support, including for distributing the life-saving vaccines that appear to be on the horizon.”

To complicate reaching an agreement on more aid, both the House and Senate are in recess until after Thanksgiving, and when they return, legislators will have a handful of days to hammer out the 2021 federal budget, prior to the Dec. 11 spending deadline, if the government is to avoid a shutdown.

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Part of the debate is over how much each side believes the US economy needs more economic 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.

Others disagree, pointing out that the vaccine won’t be ready for most people until the middle of 2021, during which time thousands more could die every day and the economy could dip again into recession.

“The pandemic is raging, and it’s starting to do damage again,” Mark Zandi, an economist at Moody’s Analytics, told The New York Times, predicting that the economy will contract in the first half of 2021 without more stimulus.

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


Time is running out to get a stimulus bill passed before the end of 2020.

Sarah Tew/CNET

How soon could a stimulus package pass now?

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

When could a stimulus bill or package pass?

House votes Senate votes President signs
Dec. 11 Dec. 12 Dec. 13
Feb. 1, 2021 (after inauguration) Feb. 2 Feb. 3
Feb. 16 (Feb. 15 is President’s Day) Feb. 16 Feb. 16
Mar. 15 Mar. 16 Mar. 17

A stimulus bill is completed before Jan. 20:
 An agreement is made, and the current House and Senate vote before the new Congress is seated in January. If President Donald Trump signs the rescue bill 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.

Negotiators agree on a stimulus deal but it fails in either the Senate or House: In this situation, 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.

Read more: Want your second stimulus check faster? Do this now

Talks once again fall apart until after Jan. 20: If partisan differences keep a bill from 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 four possible dates for an agreement. If a bill does pass that includes a direct payment, here’s how quickly we think the IRS could send a second stimulus check.


Stimulus negotiations are under incredible stress.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Why the Democrats’ $2.2 trillion stimulus package is still important

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 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, has the support of Biden 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. Following the vote, McConnell and Senate Republicans have shifted their support to a smaller $500 million proposal.

Biden on Nov. 16 called on Congress to pass the revised Heroes Act now.

Do Republicans and Democrats agree on anything?

Proposals from both sides have included another stimulus payment of up to $1,200 for individuals who meet the requirements (although the Senate’s $500 billion bill does not include a second check, aid for airlines, enhanced unemployment insurance and extending the Paycheck Protection Program for businesses. The two sides also agree on more financial assistance for coronavirus testing and tracing and vaccine deployment.

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.