September 23, 2020
GOP COVID relief bill fails in Senate: What are the next steps for stimulus check and package?

GOP’s COVID relief bill failed: What could happen next with the stimulus package


The stimulus bill could still be rescued — we just have to wait and see.

Angela Lang/CNET

The Republican-fronted “skinny” coronavirus relief bill failed to pass in the Senate last week, increasing pressure on Washington lawmakers to pass a economic stimulus bill to assist American citizens and businesses.

“We must strive to find our common ground,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Friday. “I’m optimistic. I do think that we should have an agreement. That’s what we all want.”

“I can’t predict we are going to get together here in these last two months before the election,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Friday, casting doubt that a new package will be passed prior to the Nov. 3 election. “I wish I could tell you we were going to get another package, but it doesn’t look that good right now.”

“We compromised last winter,” top White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow said Friday. “We should be able to do it again.”

Though the next steps are unknown, we’ve identified at least five possible scenarios that could happen — keep reading to learn about how each could play out. This story updates often with new information.

A single comprehensive relief bill could be back on the table

Formal talks for the overarching bill have yet to restart, but the Senate has returned from recess last week and the House of Representatives is scheduled to back to work this week, after passing the USPS bill during the break. 

The total cost of the bill is the root disagreement. The White House has hinted it could go up to $1.5 trillion, while the Democrats have come down from their initial $3 trillion proposal to $2.2 trillion, so there has been incremental progress. (The failed Republican bill was estimated at between $300 billion and $650 billion.)

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Next stimulus checks: What to expect


The prognosis of another stimulus bill passing before the presidential election fluctuates from day to day. On the campaign trail — digital or in person — it’s expected that the leadership’s coronavirus response will take center stage for candidates at all levels, increasing the political pressure to pass the next wave of aid or at least formulate a failsafe plan.

Here, we present a speculative timeline of dates for when we could see a relief bill passed if talks do resume next week. It draws from Congressional voting schedules and the potential of postponing a planned recess or the House returning early to pass a bill. 

When could the stimulus bill pass?

Senate votes House votes President signs
Possible timeline if legislation passes in September Sept. 22 Sept. 23 Sept. 24
Sept. 30 Oct. 1 Oct. 2
Oct. 6 Oct. 7 Oct. 8
Oct. 20 Oct. 21 Oct. 22

Focused smaller bills could pass instead

Called the Delivering Immediate Relief to America’s Families, Schools and Small Businesses Act, the Senate’s narrower proposal didn’t pass a Senate vote But it does suggest a path forward that delivers coronavirus aid in chunks, possibly sidestepping the partisan flare-ups that have plagued this new stimulus legislation talks, which has dragged on for over a month.

The House presented one of the first of these piecemeal bills seeking to provide funding to the US Postal Service ahead of an election in which many will likely be voting by mail

“Let’s do a more targeted bill now,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Sept. 6 in support of the GOP skinny bill. “If we need to do more in 30 days, we’ll continue to do more.”


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

Sarah Tew/CNET

Executive actions could arise instead of, or in addition to, a bill

After talks originally collapsed on Aug. 7, President Donald Trump took unilateral action by signing one executive order and three memoranda on Aug. 8. It’s possible more executive actions are coming.

During a news conference on Sept. 4 Trump said the administration might consider another executive action to release $300 billion in stimulus aid in an unused account for Americans, if Congress doesn’t vote to redirect those funds.

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.


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

Sarah Tew/CNET

Relief may go on hold until after the general election

With the Nov. 3 election less than two months away, the atmosphere in Washington could 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 election in November, any change in majority to the House or Senate, and to the presidency itself, could shift the likelihood of certain laws being passed one way or another.

The government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic is already playing heavily in the campaign at all levels. If a deal isn’t reached soon, the topic of a relief package could very well come up during town halls or debates held in the coming weeks. 

No additional action is taken

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.

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