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‘Help is on the way’: Today’s update on stimulus negotiations for a second check, unemployment aid

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


Angela Lang/CNET

With a week and a half left till the Nov. 3 election and a Friday deadline to settle on language for a new coronavirus relief package if a bill is to be signed before then, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said her goal remains to get the best agreement possible, either before the election or after. “We wouldn’t take less of a bill to get it sooner,” Pelosi said Thursday. “We want the best bill.”

Pelosi and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows both agreed that the sweeping stimulus package that Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin are negotiating would need to have final wording by the end of this week for it to stand a chance of passing Congress and becoming law before Election Day. And that includes a second stimulus check.

“We do share one goal, and that is hopefully to get some kind of deal in the next 48 hours or so,” Meadows said Wednesday on Fox News. “I can tell you that the negotiations have entered a new phase, which is more on the technical side of trying to get the language right if we can agree upon the numbers.”

Though progress is being made, the tight deadline is compounded by opposition from Senate Republicans and by a legislative process that takes time to turn a proposal into a law that can be voted on in both chambers of Congress. 

“I’m pretty happy. I think we have a prospect for an agreement. I do not believe that our timetable has come and gone,” Pelosi said Wednesday on MSNBC, acknowledging that even if time runs out before Nov. 3, the bill would be retroactive to cover Nov. 1 rents. “Help is on the way,” Pelosi said Thursday. “It will be retroactive.”

Even if Pelosi pushed a vote through the House of Representatives in time, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell could hold the vote until after the election, or rally fellow Senate Republicans to block it or vote it down. There are some Republican Senators who might vote for it anyway. 

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“No one is going to get everything they want here, and from my perspective, that means the bill on this is probably going to be higher than I want it to be and I’m very uncomfortable with that,” Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican from Florida, said Thursday on CNBC’s Squawk Box. “I think the price of not doing something is even higher.

“So as long as it’s limited in some way, as long as it’s not crazy, yes I’m willing to be flexible about it because I think it’s that important,” Rubio added.

And during Thursday’s presidential debate, President Donald Trump said he is prepared to get a deal done: “We are ready, willing and able to do something.”

Senate Republicans failed twice this week to advance their own vision of more narrow stimulus bills, after Senate Democrats blocked a $500 billion “skinny” bill on Wednesday — the same bill that Democrats stopped in September — as well as Tuesday’s vote on a $500 billion standalone COVID-19 relief bill benefiting small businesses.

These Senate votes have largely been seen as a rebuke of Trump’s support for a larger bill, and as a last-ditch effort on the part of Senate Republicans to show voters they’re attempting to deliver COVID relief before focusing on confirming conservative judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, according to USA Today.

Economists in the highest roles of government have stressed the need for stimulus aid. “Too little support would lead to a slower and weaker recovery,” said Lael Brainard, who sits on the Federal Reserve’s board of governors, MarketWatch reported Wednesday. On Oct. 6, the Chairman of the Fed, Jerome Powell, made an appeal for more aid, citing greater economic risk in providing too little aid rather than too much.

The CARES Act from March has been considered instrumental in keeping 13.2 million Americans out of poverty. Its protections have since lapsed, sparking new fears about permanent job loss, pervasive hunger and an economy that may not rebound until 2022, even with a coronavirus vaccine. And nearly 300,000 people have died in the US since January as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, according to an Oct. 20 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a number experts worry will grow during colder fall and winter weather.

What happens if a bill doesn’t pass before the election and how could it affect Americans and the economy? Here’s what we know. 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

What happens if a stimulus bill doesn’t pass before Nov. 3? 

There’s both optimism and skepticism over a bill being passed before the November election, especially with doubt that McConnell and Senate Republicans will vote a final bill through. 

Pelosi herself has acknowledged that a deal may not be passed in time. “I’m optimistic, because even with what Mitch McConnell says, ‘We don’t want to do it before the election.’ But let’s keep working so that we can do it after the election,” she said Oct. 21

Goldman Sachs analysts have suggested that depending on the election results, “congressional Democrats would have little incentive to pass a scaled-down bill when they could pass a much larger bill in early 2021,” Goldman Sachs economist Alec Phillips said, CNBC reported.

Here are some possible scenarios:

A White House offer is completed in time and passes: In this best-case scenario, a bill passes both chambers of Congress and is signed into law before Nov. 3. Stimulus checks and other aid would likely begin to go out within weeks.

A White House offer is finalized and fails in the Senate: In this situation, the House could either attempt to pick up the Senate bills, if they pass that chamber, or wait until after the election — and potentially after the Jan. 20 inauguration — to revisit stimulus aid, potentially setting back the clock by months.

A White House offer is not finalized in time and talks continue: This scenario is much like above, and would effectively stall a bill earlier than the previous scenario. It’s likely that the House would then use this bill as a starting point to push the bill through faster once negotiations revive post-election. 

Senate bill passes and the House passes as a last-ditch effort: In the event that the Senate’s narrow stimulus bill passes that chamber, the House would have the option to take them up. If they passed, Trump would be able to sign them into law or veto them. It would be likely that Congress would take up another stimulus package after the election regardless. 

Talks stop until after the election results are in: If talks don’t yield an actionable bill, negotiations could limp along or stop altogether. However, it’s likely they’ll restart in some capacity immediately after the election and leading into January. It’s been speculated that if Trump loses the election and if the Senate loses its majority, there will be little incentive to pass a sweeping package until 2021 during the transition.

To help visualize when a bill could pass, we’ve speculated and 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 stand-alone stimulus bill or package pass?

House votes Senate votes President signs
Oct. 30 Oct. 31 Nov. 1
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

What happened to the House’s stimulus bill from early October?

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.

According to Pelosi, the vote on the revised Heroes bill was independent of ongoing negotiations with Mnuchin. 

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. Like the skinny Senate bill, this new House proposal has little chance of advancing in the other chamber.

What do Republicans and Democrats fundamentally 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 do not include stimulus checks, in the past, Republicans (including those in the Senate) have supported them. Here are more details on what the Senate bill supports compared to the current package under negotiation and the most recent bill passed by the House.

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.



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