September 19, 2020
Stimulus package: All the reasons we think a new bill will pass

‘Let’s do it’: The status of stimulus bill negotiations today and when a package could pass


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


Sarah Tew/CNET

Congress went on recess last week without passing a new stimulus relief bill, but the growing crisis with the US Postal Service ahead of the presidential election will bring it back into session. On Sunday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she will cut the House of Representatives’ break short, with a vote on standalone legislation that would halt changes to the US Postal Service. It’s still unclear, however, if and when a vote could come on the overall stimulus package, one that could include a second stimulus check 

“In a time of a pandemic, the Postal Service is Election Central,” Pelosi wrote in a letter to Congress on Sunday. “Lives, livelihoods and the life of our American Democracy are under threat from the president.”

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows told CNN on Sunday that he was open to “piecemeal” legislation around the US Postal Service and stimulus relief. 

“If we can agree on postal, let’s do it. If we can agree on stimulus checks, let’s do it,” Meadows said. “Congress needs to come back and get their act together.” 

The Senate adjourned Thursday following the House, with plans to return Sept. 8 and Sept. 14, respectively. Legislation around the US Postal Service is expected to come Saturday, after the Democratic National Convention, which kicks off Monday Aug. 17 and runs through Thursday Aug. 20. 

Whenever the stimulus relief negotiations resume, it’s clear that both parties are trying to pass a full bill, even though they’re at odds on what that means. Here are five reasons we still think it’ll happen. We update this story frequently as the news develops.

Both sides want to restart stalled talks

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 cope with coronavirus testing, reopening schools, a looming eviction crisis and the upcoming election, among other things.

Despite signing four executive actions earlier this month, President Donald Trump tweeted support for a bill Aug. 14 (while also bashing Democrats), with school reopening on his personal agenda.

“We can’t wait until Sept. 30,” Pelosi said Aug. 13 about the passage of the stimulus bill. “People will die.”

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 don’t cover every area

So far, the president’s 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

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, Senate Majority Leader Mitch 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 to go 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.

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


Sarah Tew/CNET

In addition, 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 could 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.

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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 heading into 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. 

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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