After more than a month, stimulus bill negotiations are back on the table. What we know – CNET

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Congress has a handful of days to reach a deal before breaking for the election.


Angela Lang/CNET

The deadlock on Capitol Hill might soon come to an end. Or at least, a beginning of an end. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have agreed to restart formal talks to strike a deal on a new economic relief bill, which is expected to deliver a second round of stimulus checks to millions of Americans. 

“I’ve probably spoken to Speaker Pelosi 15 or 20 times in the last few days … and we’ve agreed to continue to have discussions about the CARES Act,” Mnuchin said Thursday.

Pelosi has reportedly tasked her committee heads to draft new legislation for a narrower bill than the Heroes Act proposed in May, according to The Washington Post and The Hill. The new House bill could reportedly be ready for a vote by Oct. 2, the Hill reported, citing Rep. Richard Neal, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee.

The deadline will still be tight in the run-up to the Nov. 3 election. And given the previous bipartisan sticking points, how much time is there to agree on a new bill? Given this new information, we’ve pulled some dates and identified at least five possible scenarios that could yet play out for the next stimulus package. Here are the six most important things to know about stimulus checks. This story is updated often.

With talks renewed, a package could still squeak by before Nov. 3

Time is running out for both sides of the aisle to agree on another stimulus package before election day. The last day a new bill could pass is still up in the air, since the schedules to break after this current session can be extended by the leaders of the Senate and House of Representatives, respectively. 

Possible timelines for when a stimulus bill could pass

Senate votes House votes President signs
Oct. 2 Oct. 3 Oct. 4
Oct. 9 Oct. 12 Oct. 13
Oct. 16 Oct. 19 Oct. 20
Oct. 23 Oct. 26 Oct. 27

If nothing changes, Oct. 9 — the final day of the Senate session — is the last day a bill has to clear the upper chamber, but it still isn’t the final day a bill could pass. The House, for example, is prepared to postpone the start of its next break, originally scheduled for Oct. 2, until a deal is reached. If the bill passes the Senate on or by Oct. 9, the House could pass it after that date. And if negotiators close in on a deal, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell could also compel the Senate to stay in session longer or come back early to vote on a proposal. 

Still, it’s less likely a bill could pass days before the election as the presidential candidates — President Donald Trump, who must sign the bill into law, and Democratic nominee Joe Biden — complete their campaigns.


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Congress could pass even smaller standalone bills instead

If the Senate rejects the House’s smaller bill, some in Washington say the way to break the stalemate is to pass a series of even narrower bills that target specific areas. There is growing support among House Democrats for passing a smaller bill now and then continuing to work out other issues, Politico reported.

The Senate made one attempt with its Delivering Immediate Relief to America’s Families, Schools and Small Businesses Act, but it didn’t have enough votes to proceed. 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

The president could possibly take executive action

After talks originally collapsed on Aug. 7, Trump signed one executive order and three memoranda on Aug. 8. It’s possible more executive actions would be forthcoming if this final attempt at negotiations fails before the election.

During a news conference on Sept. 4 Trump said the administration might consider another executive action to release $300 billion in unused stimulus aid for Americans, if Congress doesn’t vote to redirect those funds. There’s been no development since, however.

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The end of all talks would be devastating to millions of Americans.


Sarah Tew/CNET

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.

Negotiators could postpone the stimulus package until after the election

With the Nov. 3 election less than two months away, the atmosphere in Washington may be too politically charged to pass more economic relief bills, and leaders may want to see what happens after 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.

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


Sarah Tew/CNET

The government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic is already playing heavily in the campaign. If a deal isn’t reached soon, the topic of a relief package is likely to come up during town halls and debates between Trump and Biden in the coming weeks. 

If talks fail, lawmakers could take no additional action

We think this outcome is less likely, but it’s not outside the realm of possibility. Unemployment remains at staggeringly high levels and a housing crisis looms on the horizon. If no action is taken on a relief package, individual bills or executive orders, it could potentially cause the economy to plunge into a deeper recession, as economists say the damage already done is beginning to mirror the Great Recession of the late 2000s

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.