The US election is over. For a new stimulus package, that’s just the beginning

November 4, 2020 John Mendoza No Comments


Are stimulus negotiations broken? Here’s what’s happening now.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Polls have closed, but votes from Tuesday’s are still being counted across the US. They’ll determine America’s next president, the members of Congress and the fate of the country’s next COVID relief bill. Funding for a second stimulus check, extra weekly unemployment benefits for millions of Americans and aid for coronavirus testing all hang in the balance. And so does the county’s economic recovery.

Top US leaders all agree that more aid needs to happen, but they have competing visions of what that means. (Former Vice President and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden also has a stimulus plan.) The political majority of the House of Representatives, Senate and office of the President could solve or fan the bitter spats that have characterized the uphill climb to another stimulus package since May.

Economists forecast that surging cases of COVID-19 combined with a lapse in the few remaining stimulus benefits left will hobble the economy. That could put “millions of Americans” at risk of having power and water shut off and not being able to afford groceries. (Read more about the K-shaped recovery.) 

“The lack of support during the fourth quarter will hurt consumers and small businesses,” Brian Nick, chief investment strategist at Nuveen, told CNN, adding that there may be no fourth-quarter growth without additional stimulus.

Complicating the issue is an acrimonious turn in stimulus negotiation days ahead of the election, which saw top negotiators House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin sling blame at each other over holding up a deal. 

But if the political majority for the new term shifts, it isn’t clear if formal stimulus talks will continue in the period before the swearing in of Congress for the new term on Jan. 3, or the presidential inauguration on Jan. 20. This so-called lame-duck period is a notorious dead zone when it comes to passing new legislation, with the exception of emergency measures like avoiding a US government shutdown on Dec. 11

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Next stimulus checks: What to expect


Democrats have already shown their hand. If they win a majority in the Senate by a slim margin– and it’s still too early to say — Pelosi said they’d use a special kind of maneuver called a reconciliation bill, which could squeak funding through with a simple majority, even in the face of Republican foes. 

“We most certainly will be passing a reconciliation bill, not only for the Affordable Care Act, but for what we may want to do further on the pandemic, and some other issues that relate to the well-being of the American people,” Pelosi said Monday, The Hill reported. That could only happen after Jan. 3, when a new Congress is sworn in, and only if Democrats shift enough Senate seats to give their party the majority vote. 

If a new bipartisan stimulus bill were to come together through Mnuchin and Pelosi’s extended back-and-forth, it’s unlikely to pass the Senate before January. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell suggested on Oct. 30 that he may not pick up a stimulus package until then. “We probably need to do another package,” said McConnell, who has the power to set the agenda for when his chamber votes on legislation. “I think that’ll be something we’ll need to do right at the beginning of the year.” 

That contradicts a statement Trump made Oct. 30. “We will have a tremendous stimulus package immediately after the election,” he said to reporters. Trump seemingly based his commitment on the condition of him winning, and the House of Representatives and Senate solidifying Republican majorities.

As if to underscore the delay in passing more aid, Colorado will give a one-time $375 stimulus check to nearly everyone who claimed unemployment from March to October. And its governor, Jared Polis, proposed a $1.3 billion stimulus plan for the state.

What happens now? And how could it affect Americans and the economy? Here’s what we know today. We update this story with new information when it’s available.


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

Sarah Tew/CNET

What could happen between now and the inauguration?

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

A White House offer is completed after Nov. 3: An agreement is made and the current House and Senate vote. If Trump signs it 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.

A White House offer is finalized and fails in the Senate: In this situation, the House could vote on a deal after the election, but the current Senate, which is Republican-led, could vote it down, so the bill would not become law. In this case, Congress might try again after the next members of the House of Representatives and Senate convene on Jan. 3.

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.

Talks stop until after the election results are in: If talks grind to a halt after the election, it’s likely they’ll restart in some capacity after the inauguration in January. It’s been speculated that if Trump loses the election and if the Republican party loses its Senate majority, there will be little incentive for Congress to pass a sweeping package until 2021 during the transition.

To help visualize when a bill could pass, we’ve 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 stimulus bill or package pass?

House votes Senate votes President signs
Nov. 23 Nov. 24 Nov. 25
Dec. 11 Dec. 12 Dec. 13
Feb. 1, 2021 (after inauguration) Feb. 2, 2021 Feb. 3, 2021
Feb. 16 (Feb. 15 is President’s Day) Feb. 16 Feb. 17

Why the House’s Oct. 1 stimulus bill could still play a role

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 new House bill, endorsed primarily by Democrats, was not expected to advance through the Republican-controlled Senate, and indeed has not.

However, it provides the framework Pelosi is working from, 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

What 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, 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 and what to know about the HEALS, CARES and Heroes stimulus bill proposals that could help inform a final package.

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