Stimulus package: Top US leaders call for an ‘urgent’ bill as COVID-19 breaks records – CNET


Will a political divide keep interfering with stimulus negotiations? There’s new hope for a compromise.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Despite top US leaders calling for a coronavirus relief package they all agree is desperately needed before the Jan. 20 inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden, negotiations between Republicans and Democrats have not resumed since the Nov. 3 election. Now, as hospitals fill to capacity and the country breaks record after record with new COVID-19 cases, the call to action clangs from all sides.

There is “urgent need for Congress to pass a bipartisan bill in the lame duck session,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Friday. “This is a red alert, all hands on deck,” she added, “An emergency of the highest magnitude.”

“Congress must now do a Covid Relief Bill. Needs Democrats support. Make it big and focused. Get it done!,” President Donald Trump tweeted Saturday.

So what’s the problem?

Trump’s tweet lays the conflict bare: one side demands a big bill, the other, a focused one. Neither side of the painfully partisan divide can seem to agree. 

Conservative economists and politicians, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, see the latest signs of economic recovery as a signal that a smaller package can take the country over the hump until the COVID-19 vaccine is ready for mass distribution

“I do think there needs to be another package,” McConnell said Nov. 10, emphasizing a narrow stimulus bill, Politico reported. “Hopefully we can get past the impasse we’ve had now for four or five months and get serious.”

Others disagree, pointing out that the vaccine won’t be ready for most people for another six months or more, during which time thousands of more people could die every day and the economy could once again falter.

“We need to recognize that the economy has only done as well as it has because we had such aggressive fiscal stimulus early on,” said Karen Dynan, a Harvard economist who served as a Treasury Department official in President Barack Obama’s administration, the New York Times reported.

“What America has to understand is that we are about to enter COVID hell,” said Dr. Michael Osterholm, a renowned infectious disease expert and member of Biden’s COVID-19 task force, CNBC reported on Nov. 9. “It is happening.”

Now playing:
Watch this:

Next stimulus checks: What to expect


As the House of Representatives returns to Washington on Monday, lawmakers face a lame duck period between now and the Jan. 3 swearing-in of the next Congress that represents a last-chance effort to pass more economic relief before the end of 2020. While Biden has stimulus plans of his own (they include a second stimulus check), the incoming president doesn’t want to wait the more than two months until he’s sworn into office for relief to come, even if his rival, Trump, gets the credit as one of his last presidential acts.

“One of the urgent things that need to be done is people need relief right now,” Biden said on Nov. 10, as reported by Business Insider. “Right now: small businesses, people who are about to be evicted from their homes because they can’t pay their mortgage, unemployment insurance.”

“There are a lot of things that are going to have to wait till Joe Biden is president, but this is not one of them,” Biden’s choice for chief of staff, Ronald Klain, said on Sunday’s Meet the Press. The few remaining COVID-19 benefits are set to expire Dec. 31. 


Stimulus check negotiations could still go up in smoke if two conflicting sides can’t reach a deal.

Sarah Tew/CNET

What could happen between now and the Jan. 20 inauguration?

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

A stimulus bill is completed before Jan. 20: 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 stimulus deal is finalized and fails in either the Senate or House: In this situation, the 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.

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. As sitting president, Trump would need to sign the bill into law for it to take effect.

Talks once again fall apart until after Jan. 20: If partisan differences keep a bill from forming or passing, it’s likely they’ll restart in some capacity after the inauguration in January.

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. 30 Dec. 1 Dec. 2
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 this $2.2 trillion stimulus package 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 new House bill, endorsed primarily by Democrats, was not expected to advance through the Republican-controlled Senate, and indeed has not.

It provides the framework Pelosi is working from, however, 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 Republicans and Democrats do 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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *