January 24, 2021
Could the Stimulus package be split into smaller bills? Here's what we know

Could the Stimulus package be split into smaller bills? Here’s what we know


There’s an inkling that the stimulus bill could still be salvaged.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Senate Republicans and House Democrats have been in a deadlocked disagreement over specifics in the next economic stimulus package for weeks. Despite the bipartisan agreement over the need for a second stimulus check, it’s still uncertain when the two sides will come to an agreement and the bill will pass. We know both sides are eager to push coronavirus relief through — especially ahead of November — whether it’s in one larger bill or in separate, smaller packages. Read below for five reasons why leaders in Washington want to pass another bill.

What’s happening with the coronavirus bill now?

Stimulus package talks haven’t resumed, but on Saturday, the House passed legislation that would ban recent changes to the US Postal Service. The bill addressed up to 80 million people’s ability to vote by mail during the November presidential election. It also provides $25 billion in additional funding for the USPS, which was to be included in the Democrat-authored Heroes Act. 

Senate Republicans plan to introduce a “skinny” coronavirus stimulus package that could include $10 billion aimed at addressing the US Post Office budget crisis and $300 in weekly unemployment benefits that may be similar to an executive action signed by President Donald Trump. 

It doesn’t appear that either the proposed USPS bill or the skinny bill would include a second stimulus check, but it’s clear that whenever the stimulus relief negotiations resume, both parties will want to include more help for struggling Americans.

Both sides want to restart stimulus package negotiations

If all the name-calling and finger-pointing this month have revealed anything, it’s that both Democrats and Republicans recognize the need for another emergency relief package to help the US with coronavirus testing, reopening schools, a ever-nearing eviction crisis and the upcoming election, among other things.

On Wednesday, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said that he still hasn’t heard from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi or Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer since the talks fell through earlier this month. 

“I probably have had more not only good conversations but very productive conversations with Democrats on Capitol Hill, both on the Senate side and on the House side,” Meadows said in a Politico interview. “And a lot of them want a deal and are being very, very reasonable in their requests.”

Meadows also mentioned that the administration is looking at taking further executive action since no deal has been reached. 

Despite signing four executive actions earlier this month, the president tweeted support for a bill Aug. 14, with school reopenings on his personal agenda.

When could the stimulus bill pass?

House votes Senate votes President signs
Possible timeline if legislation passes in September Sept. 8 Sept. 9 Sept. 10
Sept. 14 Sept. 15 Sept. 16
Sept. 16 Sept. 17 Sept. 18
Sept. 21 Sept. 22 Sept. 23

Trump’s executive actions leave out key areas

The president’s recent directives (one executive order and three memoranda) cover a $400-maximum unemployment benefit, examine eviction protections, deferral of student loan payments and a payroll tax cut. In addition, the last eviction protection expired on Monday for many Americans and September rent is coming fast. 

Trump’s executive actions skip over areas that have been considered in a bipartisan stimulus package, including: 

  • Testing, tracing and treatment of COVID-19
  • Support schools reopening and provide PPE (personal protective equipment) 
  • Food assistance 
  • Aid for local and state governments
  • Protection for liability from coronavirus lawsuits
  • Money to keep post offices open for elections

On the Republican side, McConnell has said repeatedly that liability protection for businesses and schools must also be part of an agreement, which the orders didn’t touch.

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Executive orders could take weeks before going into effect

Trump’s memorandum suggested a $400-maximum unemployment benefit, of which federal funds would only cover $300 and states are expected to chip in the remaining $100. Governors of cash-strapped states struggling with the coronavirus pandemic are already pushing back. Earlier in August, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo called the benefits order “laughable.” California Gov. Gavin Newsom estimated that matching the proposed unemployment benefits would cost California around $700 million per week, which would require deep program cuts.

White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow said federal help will only take about “two weeks,” but labor experts have said that Americans could be waiting upward of a month before seeing a check. 

In addition, the new program will only be available to people who can certify that they’re unemployed or partially unemployed due to disruptions caused by COVID-19, and only if they already qualify for at least $100 a week in unemployment benefits. The policy excludes about 1 million people.

The methods by which Trump wants to fund his orders could cause more delays. The president is unilaterally seeking to use leftover or unspent FEMA funds — ahead of what experts say will be an active hurricane season — to pay unemployment benefits.


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

Sarah Tew/CNET

If Trump’s orders are challenged in court, legal action could further delay relief aid to Americans. Because the Constitution gives Congress control over federal spending, the president may not have the legal authority to issue binding executive orders about how money should be spent during the pandemic.

On top of the wait time to get federal unemployment benefits, the funding could also run out in about a month and a half, according to labor department officials. 

Executive orders might be a dead end

In addition to lacking a definitive stance on relief aid, as well as measures for testing, tracing and treating the coronavirus, the orders signed by Trump don’t officially renew a moratorium on evictions. Instead, they leave the decision to address evictions in the hands of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield. There’s also no official direction about providing financial assistance to renters, leaving that up to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson.

The memorandum regarding student loan deferral only extends previous deadlines. And as for payroll tax cuts, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said that the directives could leave individuals and businesses with a larger bill to pay in a few months.

Additionally, payroll taxes — which Trump wants to terminate — fund medicare and social security. If payroll taxes are eliminated, the Social Security Disability Insurance Trust Fund would be exhausted by mid-2021 and the Social Security Old Age and Survivors Insurance Trust Fund would be exhausted by mid-2023, according to Pelosi on Monday.


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

Sarah Tew/CNET

Politicians will want a win before the November election

The election season is well underway, and November is quickly approaching. As such, 470 seats in the US Congress — 35 Senate seats and all 435 House seats — are up for election. 

Trump, McConnell and Pelosi are all looking to be reelected this fall. And incumbents are aware that their constituents are watching their every move in regard to the stimulus package negotiations. It’s also possible that the topic of a relief package could come up during town halls or debates held during the election season. 

With first-time jobless claims totaled 963,000 two weeks ago, dipping only marginally below 1 million claims for the first time since March, and a housing crisis looming ever closer, obstinately waiting for the other side to cave can only be seen as a valid strategy for so long. Votes are on the line, and pushing through a working stimulus package could help ensure another term in office. 

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For more information, we’ve looked at how soon you might get your second stimulus check and compared the HEALS, CARES and Heroes stimulus proposals.

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