January 16, 2021
Stimulus negotiations get stormy: The Senate makes a stand, 48-hour deadline to finish a deal

‘We’ll be ready’: Stimulus negotiations on razor-thin timeline, with election 8 days away. What could happen next


Is the stimulus package in trouble? Here’s the latest.

Angela Lang/CNET

With two self-imposed deadlines come and gone to tie up the loose ends on a stimulus package and the Nov. 3 election just eight days away, there remains a superslim margin to pass — let alone complete — a deal on the next COVID relief package before Election Day. 

“We’ll be working until we have something that the president will sign. I don’t see any circumstance where the House and Senate would have a bill that the president wasn’t going to sign,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the bill’s lead Democratic negotiator, according to Politico. “We really have to get a bill done, but whatever it is, we’ll be ready in the new Congress.” 

This is not the first time Pelosi has expressed optimism to complete a deal while also acknowledging that it might not be ready for a vote until after Nov. 3. Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin are set to speak today, though talks have apparently “slowed down,” White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow said Monday on CNBC.

On Sunday, Pelosi cited national testing, school funding and unemployment aid as three unresolved topics that continue to separate the two sides. 

Talks have been on-again, off-again for months, as the US continues to rack up coronavirus cases and deaths as a result. Friday saw a new case record as COVID enters a third surge across the US. Several aides to Vice President Mike Pence have tested positive for COVID-19, including his chief of staff, underscoring soon after President Donald Trump’s own hospitalization with the coronavirus that the pandemic is of ongoing concern. Meanwhile, projections of job losses as a result of the virus continue to alarm.

While it’s possible that the last-dash efforts could yield a bill that comes to a vote in at least one chamber of Congress before Election Day, others have thrown cold water on the prospect of pushing a bill through, one that would include a second stimulus check of up to $1,200 going out to eligible Americans amid a coronavirus pandemic expected to claim more lives and jobs this winter. 

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Next stimulus checks: What to expect


“I do have a commitment from [Senate Majority Leader Mitch] McConnell that if we get an agreement, he’s willing to bring it to the floor and get it passed,” White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said Sunday.

It may come to naught if a deal isn’t agreed upon in time and if the Senate does not return for a vote prior to the election. The Senate is set to go on recess Monday night after moving to vote on confirming Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, according to Politico.

McConnell, who leads the Republican-majority Senate, has made his objections known, and has cautioned Trump not to move forward with a Pelosi deal. Although McConnell has previously said he would put a stimulus vote to the Senate floor if a deal is made, he has not publicly committed to a timeline. 

Among some Senate Republicans, the opposition has been fierce, but others have signaled their tacit support.

“The bill on this is probably going to be higher than I want it to be and I’m very uncomfortable with that,” Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican from Florida, said Oct. 22. “I think the price of not doing something is even higher.

“So as long as it’s limited in some way, as long as it’s not crazy, yes I’m willing to be flexible about it because I think it’s that important,” Rubio added.

Trump has hinted that he would pressure Senate Republicans to pass the vote. During the Oct. 22 presidential debate, Trump said he’s prepared to get a deal done: “We are ready, willing and able to do something.” That remains in doubt.

What happens if a bill doesn’t pass before the election, and how could it affect Americans and the economy? Here’s what we know. We update this story with new information when it’s available.


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

Sarah Tew/CNET

What if a stimulus bill doesn’t pass before Nov. 3? 

There’s increasing skepticism that a bill will pass before the November election, especially with doubt that McConnell and Senate Republicans will vote to support it. 

Pelosi herself has acknowledged that a deal may not be passed in time. “I’m optimistic, because even with what Mitch McConnell says, ‘We don’t want to do it before the election.’ But let’s keep working so that we can do it after the election,” she said Oct. 21

Here are some possible scenarios:

A White House offer is completed in time and passes: In this best-case scenario, a bill passes both chambers of Congress and is signed into law before Nov. 3. Stimulus checks and other aid would likely begin to go out within weeks.

A White House offer is finalized and fails in the Senate: In this situation, the House and Senate could wait until after the election — and potentially after the Jan. 20 inauguration — to revisit stimulus aid, potentially setting back the clock by months.

A White House offer is not finalized in time and talks continue: This scenario is much like above, and would effectively stall a bill earlier than the previous scenario. It’s likely that the House would then use this bill as a starting point to push the bill through faster once negotiations revive post-election. 

Talks stop until after the election results are in: If talks don’t yield an actionable bill, negotiations could limp along or stop altogether. However, it’s likely they’ll restart in some capacity immediately after the election and leading into January. It’s been speculated that if Trump loses the election and if the Senate loses its majority, there will be little incentive for Congress to pass a sweeping package until 2021 during the transition.

To help visualize when a bill could pass, we’ve speculated and come up with five possible dates, both before and after the November election. If a bill does pass that includes a direct payment, here’s how quickly we think the IRS could send a second stimulus check.

When could a stimulus bill or package pass?

House votes Senate votes President signs
Nov. 2 Nov. 9 (Senate back from recess) Nov. 10
Nov. 9 Nov. 10 Nov. 12 (Nov. 11 is Veteran’s Day)
Nov. 16 Nov. 17 Nov. 18
Nov. 23 Nov. 24 Nov. 25
Feb. 1, 2021 Feb. 2, 2021 Feb. 3, 2021

What happened to the House’s stimulus bill from early October?

On Oct. 1, the House of Representatives passed a revised Heroes Act that includes a second stimulus check and additional benefits such as enhanced unemployment benefits for tens of millions of Americans. The new House bill, endorsed primarily by Democrats, was not expected to advance through the Republican-controlled Senate, and indeed has not.

According to Pelosi, the vote on the revised Heroes bill was independent of ongoing negotiations with Mnuchin. 

The vote was 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 have included another stimulus payment of up to $1,200 for individuals who meet the requirements, among topics like aid for airlines, enhanced unemployment insurance and extending the Paycheck Protection Program for businesses. Although the Senate’s targeted bills do not include stimulus checks, in the past, Republicans (including those in the Senate) have supported them. Here are more details on what the Senate bill supports compared to the current package under negotiation and the most recent bill passed by the House.

For more information about stimulus checks, here’s how soon you might get your second stimulus check now and what to know about the HEALS, CARES and Heroes stimulus bill proposals that could help inform a final package.

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