November 24, 2020
Senate's $1 trillion bills versus $1.8 trillion White House package: Only one has a stimulus check

This $1.8T White House bill is the best chance at stimulus relief now that Senate ‘skinny’ package has failed


Get to know what’s in the bills that will be voted on soon.

Angela Lang/CNET

With the Senate failing on Wednesday to advance a $500 billion “skinny” bill it first presented in September, the White House proposal that began at $1.8 trillion on Oct. 9 is now the country’s last slim hope at getting another economic stimulus package to a vote before the Nov. 3 election.

It won’t be easy. First, Democratic and White House negotiators (the latter of whom are not legislators used to writing laws) need to crystallize the wording in the next 48 hours.

“We’d have to have our legislation all written by the end of this week,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Bloomberg TV on Tuesday.

Then, the bill would have to pass the House of Representatives and the Senate before being signed into law by President Donald Trump.

While Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has committed to a Senate vote on a new stimulus deal if it is passed by the House and supported by the administration, he didn’t give a timeline for a vote. And McConnell has reportedly warned the White House about making a deal before the election, now just 13 days away. Senate Republicans could block the bill or vote it down.

Let’s take a look at White House and Democratic proposal for a new bill, from a second stimulus check to unemployment support. We’ll also walk you through other proposals for large and (relatively) small bills, including the Senate’s two proposals this week. We update this story with new information.

What were Senate Republicans proposing?

Aside from the ongoing negotiations between the White House and Democrats, Senate Republicans tried this week to advance two economic assistance proposals, but both failed to advance.

Skinny” bill revisited: On Wednesday, Senate Republicans didn’t have enough votes to pass a $500 billion package that included a $300 enhanced unemployment benefit and aid for small businesses, funding for school reopenings and support for the US Postal Service. It also had limited liability protection for employers and health care workers, setting limits on who can sue if they contract COVID-19. The proposal didn’t include a stimulus check for individuals.

The Senate’s stand-alone proposal did not advance: On Tuesday, the Senate lacked the votes to advance a stand-alone $500 billion proposal to extend the Paycheck Protection Program. This provision was part of this spring’s CARES Act and provided forgivable loans to small businesses as an incentive to keep employees on the payroll.

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What’s in the White House’s $1.8 trillion stimulus bill?

For months, Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin have discussed the size and approach of the next economic relief bill. Negotiating every day for several weeks, the two say they’re coming closer to reaching an agreement. While the Republican-controlled Senate has signaled strong objections to the bill, McConnell said if the package does come to the Senate, he will bring it to a vote.

Pelosi said the goal is to have legislation ready by the election, but if the two sides can’t reach that goal, talks will continue. “We still have a responsibility to continue the negotiations,” Pelosi said on Bloomberg TV Tuesday.

According to The Washington Post, Mnuchin’s current offer began at $1.8 trillion and includes:

Another stimulus payment: Stimulus checks up to $1,200 for eligible adults and $1,000 for qualifying child dependents (the CARES Act set dependent payments at $500).

Unemployment benefits: The proposal sets enhanced unemployment benefits at $400 a week (down from the $600 included in the CARES Act but up from the $300 that the president authorized this summer through executive action).

Funding for coronavirus testing and tracing: Earlier this week, Mnuchin ceded ground on this previous blocker, saying the White House would add money for coronavirus testing and tracing to its stimulus offer

State and local funding: A big sticking point, the proposal includes $300 billion for cities and states, up from $250 billion in an earlier proposal.

$100 bills

Enhanced unemployment benefits are already ending in many states, leaving people waiting anxiously for a new relief package that includes more funding for the program.

James Martin/CNET

What other stand-alone bills have been suggested?

$1,200 stimulus checks: On Oct. 6, after being hospitalized for COVID-19, Trump said he’d sign a bill authorizing another $1,200 check immediately. Issuing another direct stimulus payment to qualified people is one of the areas that everyone — both Republicans and Democrats — appears to agree on.

Airline assistance: With the airline industry hit hard by the coronavirus-induced economic downturn and starting to furlough workers, negotiators have tagged airline assistance for stand-alone legislation. “Let me just be really clear,” Pelosi said Oct. 8. “I have been very open to having a stand-alone bill for the airlines.” The House earlier passed a $28.8 billion airline support bill that Pelosi suggested could be the starting point for legislation. 

Support for the US Postal Service: This summer, the House passed a bill that would address concerns about the Postal Service and particularly mail-in voting during the upcoming election and provide $25 billion in additional funding. The Senate didn’t take up the bill.

Everything in the Democrats’ $2.2 trillion stimulus bill

Pelosi continues to point to the updated version of The Heroes Act (PDF) as the basis for a new bill. The House passed the bill on Oct. 1 largely along party lines. The new Heroes Act includes:

Direct payments: The current Democratic proposal includes payments of up to $1,200 per individual and $500 for each dependent.

Payroll support for small businesses and airline workers: The Democratic plan would refund payroll protections and extend the program to airline workers

Unemployment benefits: The plan would reauthorize $600 federal unemployment payments, through January 2021.

State and local funding: The bill would provide assistance to state and local governments to pay essential workers, including first responders and health workers.

Housing assistance: The proposal would renew financial support for renters and homeowners to meet rental and mortgage payments.

For more information, here’s what you need to know about coronavirus hardship loans and unemployment insurance, and what you can do if you’ve lost your job.

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