Stimulus package: Two-part bill already under attack, Trump calls for bigger checks – CNET

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A smaller stimulus bill has a chance of making it through before the end of 2020.


James Martin/CNET

If Congress won’t pass one bill for $980 billion, could it pass two smaller bills that equal the same amount? That’s the question a bipartisan group of Senators raised on Monday when they officially introduced a two-part bill for $980 billion in emergency COVID-19 aid. This is the finished version of the framework the group raised roughly two weeks ago, but with a major difference.

Instead of a single $980 billion package, the proposal sets aside $748 billion for emergency funding and $160 billion for the issues most likely to capsize talks: state, local and tribal funding and for liability protection from coronavirus-related lawsuits. Splitting the proposal into two separate pieces could increase the chances of approving at least some funding, if not all, before the final remaining protections run out

The two-part package already has its detractors. 

“What kind of negotiation is it when you go from $3.4 trillion to $188 billion in new money? That is not a negotiation. That is a collapse,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent, on Monday, Politico reported. “We cannot go home until there [are] strong unemployment benefits plus $1,200 per adult, $500 per kid for every working person and family in this country.”

Sanders, along with Republican Senator Josh Hawley, have vocally advocated for the new emergency relief bill to contain a second $1,200 stimulus check. In its current form, the multipart proposal lacks the funding, perhaps in part to help keep costs below the $1 trillion figure Republicans have previously said they’d support as an upper limit.


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“If the Senate of the United States can find hundreds of billions of dollars to give to big government and big business, surely it can find some relief for working families and working individuals,” Hawley said Dec. 11.

President Donald Trump has also once again called for stimulus checks

“Right now, I want to see checks — for more money than they’re talking about — going to people,” Trump said on Fox News in an interview that aired Sunday. “I’m pushing it very hard.”

Last week, the White House proposed an alternate $918 billion package that would send $600 checks to qualifying adults, plus an additional $600 for each qualified child dependent. However, it would remove the $300 weekly federal unemployment aid that the $908 billion bill (now the $748 billion bill) would fund for four months.

“If you’re sending a stimulus check of $600 or whatever it may be — it was $1,200 before — you’re sending it to people who still have a paycheck and still have a job,” Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat, said on Fox News Sunday. “If you send a check to an unemployment person, you are sending to a person who has no lifeline — it’s done at the end of this month, they’ve got nothing.”

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


Sarah Tew/CNET

Even split into to parts, it still isn’t clear if top Democratic and Republican lawmakers will bring either of the two bills to a vote.

“What Leader [Mitch] McConnell decides to do, I don’t have control over. I only can do what I can do,” Sen. Bill Cassidy, a Republican member of the group that crafted the proposal, said Sunday.

A coronavirus aid proposal before Jan. 1 is considered emergency legislation to institute a safety net for expiring benefits that could leave tens of million of unemployed Americans without an income and millions of households facing eviction. A sweeping deal like the $2 trillion CARES Act from March, which authorized a $1,200 stimulus check for most Americans, is more likely to return to the table in early 2021, top US leaders have implied. 

“We will not go home for Christmas until we pass legislation that gives relief to the American people,” Manchin said Monday.

As complications arise, negotiations could drag on. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said if lawmakers don’t pass more aid by Friday, Dec. 18, Congress could keep working through the end of the month. 

“We’ve been here after Christmas, you know. We were here five years ago,” Pelosi said Dec. 10. “People do want to get home for the holidays, such as that is. But what’s more important is that we get the job done for the American people before the holidays.”

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 Congress pass a new emergency ‘stimulus’ bill?

Here are some possible scenarios that could play out over the coming weeks and months, depending on how negotiations settle in Washington.

When could a stimulus bill or package pass?

House votes Senate votes President signs
Dec. 16 Dec. 17 Dec. 18
Dec. 22 Dec. 23 Dec. 24
Feb 1, 2021 (after inauguration) Feb. 2 Feb. 3
Feb 16 (Feb 15 is President’s Day) Feb. 16 Feb. 16

Everything that could happen with a stimulus package now

If a stimulus bill is completed this year or before Jan. 20: With an agreement made, the current House and Senate would vote before the new Congress is seated in early January. If the outgoing president then signed the rescue bill into law, aid would likely begin to go out within weeks, with certain groups possibly receiving financial help before the end of 2020.

If 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, an extension of the eviction ban or even a second check, with the new Congress revisiting other programs after the inauguration. As the 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

If talks once again fall apart until after Jan. 20: If partisan differences keep a bill from passing, it’s possible they’ll restart in some capacity after Biden’s inauguration in January. Here are some executive actions Biden could take immediately once president if a stimulus bill hasn’t passed by the time he’s sworn in.

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

The Democrats’ stimulus package from October still matters

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’s not law, this bill provides the talking points Pelosi was working with prior to the bipartisan proposal and might return to next year, if another stimulus proposal picks up steam after Biden’s inauguration. 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).

What parts 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 benefit would make it into a smaller bill, if that were to pass first, these other relief 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.