October 24, 2020
New Heroes Act passes with stimulus checks and more unemployment benefits: What now?

Stimulus package agreement this week? Update on negotiations over a second check and more


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The clock is ticking for Congress to reach a deal before breaking for the election.


Sarah Tew/CNET

With Election Day now 29 days away, negotiations between Democrats and White House officials are already under pressure to reach a deal on a new stimulus package before many Americans cast their ballot. But now President Donald Trump’s hospitalization with COVID-19 and the Senate pausing floor action until Oct. 19 create further obstacles that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin need to overcome if they intend to reach an agreement on the next wave of coronavirus relief and get the new bill passed.

Over the weekend, Trump urged negotiators to reach a deal. “Our great USA wants & needs stimulus,” the president’s account tweeted Saturday. “Work together and get it done. Thank you!”

To lay the groundwork for a deal in the Senate, Mnuchin told Republicans to prepare for a new stimulus package as soon as midweek, The Washington Post reported. But Pelosi, speaking on Face the Nation Sunday, was guarded about the prospect of reaching an agreement this week: “It just depends on if they understand what we have to do to crush the virus.”

After three Republican senators tested positive for COVID-19, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell suspended his chamber until Oct. 19. Because Senate floor votes are held in person, McConnell said he would recall Senators to vote on a stimulus package if need be, giving them 24 hours to return to the Capitol.

With all that’s happened over the past few days, we answer questions about how Trump’s COVID diagnosis could affect the negotiations, the fastest a new bill could realistically pass and what happens if there’s no agreement before the election. We regularly update this story. 

Read more: The most important things to know about stimulus checks and how taxes and stimulus checks are like two peas in a pod.


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How does Trump’s hospitalization effect stimulus negotiations?

For now, that’s uncertain, apart from Trump’s Saturday tweet highlighting his desire to sign a new stimulus package into law. Trump may be released as soon as Monday, his medical team said Sunday. 

Although she remained circumspect Sunday, Pelosi has highlighted the way Trump’s COVID diagnosis and treatment could shift the dynamics of a new coronavirus relief package.

“Maybe this will be the moment where people will say, ‘OK, masks, sanitation, treatment,'” Pelosi said Friday morning, before the president was hospitalized. “It might be a learning experience.” 

Pelosi and Mnuchin have both tested negative for COVID-19. 

Prior to Trump’s hospitalization, McConnell seemed cautiously optimistic the two sides might be able to find a middle ground. “I think we’re closer to getting an outcome,” he said Oct. 2.

Pelosi ended the previous week with a letter to House Democrats outlining the remaining areas of disagreement.

When could a new coronavirus relief bill realistically pass? 

Now that the House is on a break following its session Oct. 2 and the Senate is on hold, negotiators are running out of time to reach an agreement on another stimulus package before Election Day, Nov. 3. If negotiations continue, the last day a new bill could pass is up in the air, since the schedules to break can be extended by the leaders of the Senate and House of Representatives.

If the two sides do reach an agreement, it could take a week or more before it comes up for a vote, Politico said. To become law, Congress would have to approve the bill and Trump (or Vice President Mike Pence, if Trump were unable to fulfill his duties) would need to sign it into law.

Possible timelines for when a stimulus bill could pass

House votes Senate votes President signs
Oct. 16 Oct. 19 (when Senate is back in session) Oct. 20
Oct. 23 Oct. 26 Oct. 27
Oct. 30 Oct. 31 Nov. 2
Nov. 6 Nov. 9 Nov. 10

Didn’t the House pass a new stimulus bill? What’s going on?

On Oct. 1, the House of Representatives passed a revised Heroes Act that includes a second stimulus check and additional benefits like enhanced unemployment benefits for tens of millions of Americans. The new House bill, endorsed primarily by Democrats, has little chance of advancing through the Republican-controlled Senate, though.

According to Pelosi, the vote on the revised Heroes bill is independent of ongoing negotiations with Mnuchin. If Pelosi and Mnuchin agree on a new proposal, a new bill would need to be separately drafted and voted on in both the House and Senate before being signed into law. The total cost of the package and funding allocations like a child tax credit have remained chief sticking points.

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Will America pass a new stimulus bill? Both sides agree more aid is necessary.


Angela Lang/CNET

Why did the House vote on Heroes 2.0 if talks are ongoing?

The vote is 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. Like the skinny Senate bill, this new House proposal has little chance of advancing in the other chamber.

What do Republicans and Democrats agree on?

Proposals from both sides include another stimulus payment of up to $1,200 for individuals who meet the requirements, among topics like aid for airlines, coronavirus testing and extending the Paycheck Protection Program for businesses.

If talks fail, could the president seek executive action?

After talks originally collapsed on Aug. 7, Trump signed one executive order and three memoranda the following day. It’s possible more executive actions could be forthcoming if this final attempt at negotiations fails before the election, though there’s been no development after Trump first suggested his administration might consider another executive action to bypass Congress. 

With his medical condition still under review, it’s unclear if Trump would pursue unilateral action at this point.

Trump’s current COVID-19 relief executive actions address trying to slow evictions, extending unemployment benefits to a lesser degree and deferring payroll taxes until next year.

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


Sarah Tew/CNET

Could negotiations resume again after election results are in?

Yes. If this current sprint of talks dead-ends, leaders may want to see what happens in the period after the election and before the presidential inauguration on Jan. 20, 2021. Pelosi and congressional Democrats may also believe they can reach a more favorable deal in 2021, depending on who’s elected president.

With 470 seats in the US Congress — 35 Senate seats and all 435 House seats — up for a vote in November, any change in majority to the House or Senate, and to the presidency, shifts the likelihood of certain laws being passed one way or another. Right now, the Senate is led by Republicans while the House is led by Democrats.

What about passing narrow, standalone bills instead?

If the two sides reach an agreement but the Senate rejects the new bill, some in Washington say the way to break the stalemate is to pass a series of narrower bills that target specific areas — such as the entertainment and airline industries. But that’s unlikely to happen before the election.

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows revived the discussion on Oct. 5. “Meadows again calls for passing stimulus relief piecemeal — an approach Democrats have rejected for months — and then stresses the importance of moving in a ‘fiscally responsible manner,'” tweeted Jeff Stein, the Washington Post’s White House economics reporter.

Senate Republicans made one attempt with its Delivering Immediate Relief to America’s Families, Schools and Small Businesses Act, but that proposal failed in the Senate. The House also presented a piecemeal bill seeking to provide funding to the US Postal Service ahead of an election in which many Americans, wary of in-person voting during a deadly pandemic, will likely be voting by mail

So what happens now?

For now, there’s nothing to do but wait and see how Trump’s recovery progresses and how the ongoing negotiation efforts play out. 

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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