Will Congress pass a stimulus package with no second check? Today’s update

8 Dec, 2020 John Mendoza No Comments


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

Sarah Tew/CNET

The race to try to pass another economic relief package before the end of the year is on. A bipartisan group of senators are expected to present their final $908 billion proposal by Wednesday — but that bill at the moment does not include a second stimulus check. However, a handful of legislators are urging their colleagues to add in direct payments of up to $1,200 per eligible American, instead of potentially making people wait until early 2021 when President-elect Joe Biden takes office. 

Congress is also expected to vote on Wednesday to stop a Friday government shutdown and continue negotiating through Dec. 18 on next year’s budget. 

The bipartisan $908 billion proposal is seen as a last-chance effort to bring sorely needed economic aid like extra unemployment benefits and money for small businesses before 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.

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Next stimulus checks: What to expect


Ultimately, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi both need to sign off on a bill. Pelosi endorsed the deal last week, though it is significantly smaller than the $2.2 trillion Heroes Act the House passed in October, and does not include a second stimulus check. McConnell at first dismissed the $908 billion plan in favor of his $500 billion “skinny” bill, but on Monday, told the Senate floor that “a targeted compromise on the most urgent items could pass by a massive bipartisan margin.”

Sen. Bill Cassidy, a Republican from Louisiana, told Fox News Sunday this week that he is confident McConnell and President Donald Trump will agree to pass the latest proposal. “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,” Cassidy said. “There may be a stimulus check, but that would be part of a different piece of legislation.”

However, other members of Congress who support a second stimulus check for eligible Americans are not happy that the $908 billion bill does not include funding for those direct payments. Some, including Sen. Bernie Sanders, an Independent from Vermont, have said they will not support the bill without the addition of stimulus checks. Some also object to language that would protect businesses and certain institutions from coronavirus-related lawsuits, a priority backed by Republicans.

Sen. Josh Hawley, a Republican from Missouri, also said he’d oppose a package that doesn’t contain a stimulus check, and that he has lobbied Trump to veto any bill that does not include a second round of direct payments. 

“Working families and individuals ought to be first for COVID relief, and then we’ll talk about everything else. I see some of these comments about ‘well, we just don’t have any money left over,'” Hawley told Politico on Monday. “We don’t have money left over for people? We can give it to state governments, to businesses, but we don’t have any money for people? I just think that’s crazy.”


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

Sarah Tew/CNET

Biden has 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, Pelosi and other top Democrats 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 President-elect Biden will grapple with,” Warner said

We also still don’t know if McConnell and other top Republicans will support the final version of the bill. 

“Everyone feels a sense of urgency. There is not a person on the Hill, I think, who doesn’t feel the urgency,” Rep. Josh Gottheimer, a Democrat representing New Jersey who has been involved in the bipartisan group’s work, told the Washington Post Monday. “I think everybody recognizes the clock is ticking and it’s getting louder. I think that’s forcing resolution, and the good news is we’ve made a lot of progress.”

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. 16 Dec. 17 Dec. 18
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.


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.

Why the Democrats’ stimulus proposal is still important

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 things 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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