Stimulus negotiations at most promising point in months as Trump hospitalized with COVID. What now?

3 Oct, 2020 John Mendoza No Comments


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The clock is ticking for Congress to reach a deal before breaking for the election.


Sarah Tew/CNET

President Donald Trump was hospitalized Friday after contracting COVID-19, a dramatic end to perhaps the most hopeful day of private negotiations between White House Republicans and House Democrats over a new stimulus package delivering coronavirus relief aid. 

Trump’s Thursday night announcement that he and First Lady Melania Trump tested positive for the coronavirus sharply underscores the urgency from both sides to agree on more economic stimulus for Americans reeling from the effects of COVID-19, from soaring unemployment rates that are still far above prepandemic levels to calls for more testing to safely reopen schools. 

The initial news of Trump’s coronavirus diagnosis came hours after the House of Representatives passed a revised Heroes Act that includes a second stimulus check and additional benefits like enhanced unemployment benefits for tens of millions of Americans.

Though the Senate may not pick up the bill, the effort to reach a bipartisan agreement ahead of the Nov. 3 election continues. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin have continued to negotiate by phone.

“This kind of changes the dynamic,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said early Friday, before Trump’s hospitalization, on MSNBC. “Maybe this will be the moment where people will say, ‘OK, masks, sanitation, treatment,'” she added. “It might be a learning experience.” 

What happened with negotiations on Friday and what happens to the stimulus bill in light of Trump’s hospitalization? We’ll explain all you need to know. Check back for updates.

Read more: The most important things to know about stimulus checks and how taxes and stimulus checks are like two peas in a pod.


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Where stimulus aid negotiations stand today

After weeks of negotiations at a standstill, Pelosi and Mnuchin spoke daily this week as they continue to work toward an agreement on a coronavirus relief bill.

On Friday, Pelosi sent a letter to House Democrats outlining the areas the two sides have yet to bridge, including unemployment insurance and local funding. In the note, Pelosi expressed optimism a deal can be reached: “We are expecting a response from the White House on these areas and others with more detail. In the meantime, we continue to work on the text to move quickly to facilitate an agreement.”

Later, the two sides spoke to discuss the areas of disagreement Pelosi outlined in her letter. Mnuchin and Pelosi agreed to continue discussions.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell seemed cautiously optimistic the two sides are working toward middle ground. “I think we’re closer to getting an outcome,” he said Friday.

What does the House’s Heroes 2.0 vote mean for stimulus negotiations?

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

For the Heroes 2.0 proposal to become law, it would still need to pass the Senate — which is unlikely — and to receive President Donald Trump’s signature.

If Pelosi and Mnuchin agree on a new proposal, it would need to be separately drafted and voted on in both the House and Senate before being signed into law. The total cost of the package and funding allocations like a child tax credit have remained chief sticking points.

Why did the House vote on Heroes 2.0 if talks are underway?

The partisan vote is thought to provide cover for House Democrats as they campaign without a new relief bill, much as the Senate did earlier this month for Republican members with its $650 billion skinny bill, though this new House proposal wouldn’t be expected to pass the Senate.

What do Democrats and Republicans agree on?

Proposals from both sides include another stimulus payment of up to $1,200 for individuals who meet the requirements, among topics like aid for airlines, coronavirus testing and extending the Paycheck Protection Program for businesses.

When’s the fastest a new coronavirus relief bill could pass now? 

With the House scheduled to break following its session Friday and the Senate heading out next week, negotiators are running out of time to reach an agreement on another stimulus package before election day. If negotiations continue, the last day a new bill could pass is up in the air, since the schedules to break can be extended by the leaders of the Senate and House of Representatives.

If the two sides do reach an agreement, it could take a week or more before it comes up for a vote, Politico said.

Possible timelines for when a stimulus bill could pass

House votes Senate votes President signs
Oct. 8 Oct. 9 (last official day of Senate session) Oct. 13 (Columbus Day is Oct. 12)
Oct. 16 Oct. 19 Oct. 20
Oct. 23 Oct. 26 Oct. 27
Oct. 30 Oct. 31 Nov. 2

If the two sides don’t reach an agreement by Friday, it’s less likely a bill could pass in the handful of days before the election as members of Congress and the presidential candidates — Trump, who must sign the bill into law, and Democratic nominee Joe Biden — turn their attention to campaigning.

If negotiations fail, could the president seek executive action?

After talks originally collapsed on Aug. 7, Trump signed one executive order and three memoranda the following day. It’s possible more executive actions could be forthcoming if this final attempt at negotiations fails before the election, though there’s been no development after Trump first suggested his administration might consider another executive action to bypass Congress.

Trump’s current COVID-19 relief executive actions address slowing evictions, extending unemployment benefits to a lesser degree and deferring payroll taxes until next year.

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


Sarah Tew/CNET

Could talks resume again after election results are in?

If this current sprint of talks dead-ends, leaders may want to see what happens in the period after the election on Nov. 3 and before the presidential inauguration on Jan. 20, 2021. Pelosi and congressional Democrats may also believe they can reach a more favorable deal in 2021, depending on the results of the election.

With 470 seats in the US Congress — 35 Senate seats and all 435 House seats — up for a vote in November, any change in majority to the House or Senate, and to the presidency, shifts the likelihood of certain laws being passed one way or another.

What about passing narrow, standalone bills instead?

If the two sides do reach an agreement but the Senate rejects the new bill, some in Washington say the way to break the stalemate is to pass a series of even narrower bills that target specific areas — such as the entertainment and airline industries — but that’s unlikely to happen before the election.

Senate Republicans made one attempt with its Delivering Immediate Relief to America’s Families, Schools and Small Businesses Act, but that proposal failed in the Senate. The House also presented a piecemeal bill seeking to provide funding to the US Postal Service ahead of an election in which many Americans, wary of in-person voting during a pandemic, will likely be voting by mail

What happens now?

For now, there’s nothing to do but wait and see how Trump’s recovery progresses and how the ongoing negotiation efforts play out. 

For more information, here’s how soon you might get your second stimulus 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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