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Stimulus negotiations update: New 48-hour deadline, Senate bill blocked, high-stakes confrontation looms

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


Angela Lang/CNET

Senate Republicans who oppose a sweeping stimulus package that contains a second stimulus check sustained another blow on Wednesday, after Senate Democrats blocked a $500 billion “skinny” bill that came to a vote today. It’s the same bill that Democrats stopped in September. Tuesday’s vote on a $500 billion stand-alone COVID relief bill benefiting small businesses also failed to advance.

This legislation has largely been seen as a rebuke against President Donald 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.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who, along with other Senate Republicans have fiercely opposed the more than $1.8 trillion stimulus package, told the White House not to move forward with a deal, The Washington Post reported Tuesday.

McConnell has said, however, that if a deal goes through he would put it on the Senate floor “at some point,” according to Politico Senior Writer Jake Sherman, even while privately trying to steer Trump away from the bill. 

Progress since Tuesday on the White House offer has brought a fresh wave of optimism in passing renewed coronavirus aid before Election Day, so long as the White House and Democratic negotiators nail down exact wording by the end of the week. 

“We do share one goal, and that is hopefully to get some kind of deal in the next 48 hours or so,” White House Chief of Staff Mark 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.”

“I would think we need to have stimulus by the end of next week,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who is also the lead Democratic negotiator, said Tuesday night on Bloomberg TV. “In order for that to do it, we’d have to have our legislation all written by the end of this week.” 

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Pelosi and the top White House negotiator, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, are scheduled to speak again 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.

Still, Senate Republicans could themselves block the White House bill, or vote it down, preventing it from becoming law before Nov. 3.

Trump has downplayed his concern about Republican backlash over the last week, most recently saying on Fox News he “will take care of that problem in two minutes” if the Senate opposes the bill. “If I had something that would be good, I think I could quickly convince the Republicans to do it.” That remains in doubt.

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.

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 if a COVID relief 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. “We should have a responsibility to continue the negotiations,” she said Oct. 20

Before the Senate’s vote on Wednesday, Goldman Sachs’ analysts suggest that a narrower package that includes funding for the Paycheck Protection Program and expanded unemployment benefits could pass. But 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 finalized 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. 26 Oct. 27 Oct. 28
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 new stimulus bill?

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 aid 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 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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