Stimulus package: ‘Stupidity on steroids if Congress doesn’t act’

6 Dec, 2020 John Mendoza No Comments


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America races toward its last chance to rescue the economy before the end of 2020.


Sarah Tew/CNET

On Sunday, senators took to the airwaves to whip up support for a $908 billion COVID-19 rescue plan that merges elements from previous Democratic and Republican proposals into a compromise deal. On Monday, the bipartisan group of senators who first introduced the plan on Dec. 1 is expected to present the final plan, soon after which negotiations could begin. Both parties indicate they’re eyeing a vote before federal funding lapses on Dec. 11.

The $908 billion proposal is seen as a last-ditch effort to bring sorely needed economic aid like extra unemployment benefits and money for small businesses before the protections lapse on Dec. 31, otherwise leaving tens of millions of Americans without any federal support for weeks, while hunger and evictions mount and COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths soar.

“With so many of these initiatives from the first CARES package running out as soon as the day after Christmas, it would be what I call stupidity on steroids if Congress doesn’t act,” Sen. Mark Warner, a Democrat from Virginia and member of the bipartisan group that wrote the proposal, said Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union.

The proposal has provoked ire from members of Congress who adamantly support a second stimulus check, which the $908 billion framework doesn’t include. 

“This is not a stimulus bill. It is a relief bill. And it is something for the next three or four months to help those in greatest need,” Sen. Bill Cassidy, a Republican from Louisiana, said on Fox News Sunday. “There may be a stimulus check, but that would be part of a different piece of legislation.”

The lack of a $1,200 per person direct payment has emerged as a sticking point for some, who have said they will not support the bill without it. They also object to language that would protect businesses and certain institutions from coronavirus-related lawsuits, a priority backed by Republicans.

“COVID relief needs to directly help everyday people. People need stimulus checks & UI,” Rep. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat from New York, tweeted Thursday, referring to larger weekly unemployment insurance checks during the pandemic.


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Sen. Josh Hawley, a Republican from Missouri, also said he’d oppose a package that doesn’t contain a stimulus check. 

“I’d want to see that included,” Hawley told NBC News this week. “I don’t know why we wouldn’t give assistance directly to families and individuals who need it. It’s fast — it’s as fast as anything else. I’m not sure why it’s controversial,” he added. “I’m a little baffled by it.” Hawley tweeted Friday that he’d “gladly work w/@AOC” to help working families.

President-elect Joe Biden has already called the $908 billion proposal a “down payment” on a larger, future stimulus package, stressing that the “immediately needed” relief for unemployed Americans, people facing eviction and people struggling to pay a mortgage has already been addressed in the Democrats’ $3 trillion Heroes Act passed May 15, which the House of Representatives revised down to $2.2 trillion on Oct. 1.

For now, Biden and other top Democrats, like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, support the end-of-year deal, albeit with some “improvements.” It’s unlikely that Pelosi and Biden will force the issue of a stimulus check, which could add over $270 billion to the final package — an increase of roughly 30% of the $908 billion bipartisan proposal.

“Those who want the direct stimulus checks, that will be something a President-elect Biden will grapple with,” Warner said.

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More stimulus money for the country and its citizens hangs in the balance.


Sarah Tew/CNET

What’s still unknown is how top Republican leadership will respond when and if the time comes to put the coronavirus rescue bill to a vote. 

Senate Majority Leader McConnell dismissed the $908 plan almost immediately and instead advanced a third revision to a $500 billion “skinny” bill that’s twice failed in the Senate and was blocked by Democrats and would likely fail again. Two days later, McConnell preached compromise and confidence, according to CNBC

McConnell initially explained his resistance by suggesting he would only bring to a vote a bill that President Donald Trump would be likely to sign into law. It’s possible moods may have changed.

“President Trump has indicated he will sign a $908 billion package. There is only one $908 billion package out there and that is ours. Leader McConnell has said he is not interested in making a point. He wants something that passes into law,” Cassidy said

“It’s a deal that must come together,” said Sen. Joe Manchin, who helped craft the proposal, Sunday on Meet the Press. “We don’t have a choice now. It’s one of those things that has to be done.”

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

Read moreWhat Biden could do for stimulus if another bill doesn’t pass

When could a new stimulus bill come to a vote?

Here are some possible scenarios that could play out over the coming weeks and months, depending on which way the wind blows in Washington.

When could a stimulus bill or package pass?

House votes Senate votes President signs
Dec. 9 Dec. 10 Dec. 11
Feb. 1, 2021 (after inauguration) Feb. 2 Feb. 3
Feb. 16 (Feb. 15 is President’s Day) Feb. 16 Feb. 16
March 15 March 16 March 17

What could happen next with the stimulus bill?

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 Trump signs the rescue bill into law, 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 House or Senate: 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.

A smaller bill could pass now, and a larger one could happen later: It’s possible that a subset of programs would get funded before Biden becomes president, for example unemployment aid or an extension of the eviction ban, with the new Congress revisiting other programs, like a second stimulus check, after his inauguration. As sitting president, Trump would need to sign any bill passed before Jan. 20 into law for it to take effect.

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Stimulus negotiations are under incredible stress.


Sarah Tew/CNET

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. Here are some executive actions Biden could take immediately if a stimulus bill doesn’t pass by the time he’s sworn in as president.

If a bill does pass that includes a direct payment, here’s how quickly we think the IRS could send a second stimulus check.

Yes, the Democrats’ stimulus proposal is still key

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 did not.

Although it is not law, this bill provides the foundation from which Pelosi is working now and might work from in the future, if another stimulus bill picks up steam after Biden’s inauguration in 2021. This revised Heroes Act has Biden’s support and could figure into future negotiations, depending on whether Georgia’s state runoff on Jan. 5 gives Democrats control of the Senate (Republicans currently maintain a two-seat lead).

Which elements do Republicans and Democrats agree on?

Proposals from both sides have included the Paycheck Protection Program for businesses, enhanced unemployment insurance, and another stimulus payment of up to $1,200 for individuals who meet the requirements. Although not every commonality would make it into a smaller bill, if that were to pass first, these measures are most likely to gain bipartisan support. The two sides also agree on more financial assistance for coronavirus testing and vaccine deployment.

Here are more details on the biggest points of contention between the White House, Republicans and 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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