Stimulus package update: Despite 3 new proposals, negotiations are off to a rocky start


Will the deep political divide in Congress keep interfering with stimulus negotiations?

Sarah Tew/CNET

Tuesday brought not one, but three stimulus package proposals aimed at delivering some measure of economic relief as 2020 comes to a close. But so far, none has brought the US any closer to a COVID-19 rescue bill that will pass both chambers of Congress and become law.

The most promising in terms of bipartisan support is the $908 billion “framework” introduced by a group of Democratic and Republican senators. Bridging the gap on the price tag and funding, this proposal would fund hot-button issues like four months of extra unemployment benefits for $300 per week; forgivable loans to small businesses, vaccine delivery and more — just not a second stimulus check.

“We recognize that families all across America are struggling, that businesses are closing, that hospitals are overwhelmed,” Sean. Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine, said from the Senate floor. “It is absolutely essential that we pass emergency relief.”

But the bill hit a dead end soon after it was announced, when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell shot it down, CNBC reported, saying to reporters, “We just don’t have time to waste time” on a bill that President Donald Trump may not sign. 

So that’s one proposal down.

McConnell also reportedly passed around a third revision of his narrow relief package, which has failed to advance twice in the Senate and was twice blocked by Democrats. With even less support for programs valued by Democrats this time around, it’s unlikely the bill could pass the Senate.

House Democrats also reportedly gave McConnell a new proposal of their own, according to a tweet from Politico reporter Burgess Everett, but little is known about its content. However, if the package is upwards of $1 trillion — and we’ll keep our eyes peeled for a final number — it’s difficult to see McConnell bringing the package to a vote in the Senate.

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Next stimulus checks: What to expect


The Senate and House of Representatives’ final session of the Congressional term comes after one of the deadliest weeks since the coronavirus pandemic began. During November, the US doubled October’s total caseload. Current forecasts predict that the US could see a total of 294,000 to 321,000 COVID-19 deaths reported by Dec. 19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Nov. 25.

Read moreSorry, you could get less money in a second stimulus check

In addition to the rising death toll, up to 20 million renters are at risk of losing their homes, up to one in six Americans are going hungry and new unemployment claims are on the rise.

“The economy is going to be very uncomfortable between now and when we get the next fiscal rescue package,” Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, told the Associated Press Nov. 25. “If lawmakers can’t get it together, it will be very difficult for the economy to avoid going back into a recession.”

The House of Representatives has nine official in-session days and the Senate 14 days before both chambers break for the new year. With less than a month to debate, draft and vote on a new stimulus package, however, Congress is expected to work overtime, including weekends, in an effort to close a deal of some sort.

After the last votes on Dec. 4, House members “are encouraged to remain in Washington,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said Nov. 27. The Senate and House leaders can recall members at any time for a special vote.

Here’s what we know about where negotiations stand right now and what could happen before the end of the year.

Read moreWhat Biden could do for stimulus if another bill doesn’t pass


Time is running out to get a stimulus bill passed before the end of 2020.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Could a bill pass before the end of the year?

With Tuesday’s activity, there’s more hope now than in weeks that a new stimulus package of some sort could pass before 2021. 

In the eight months since the CARES Act passed in March, the two sides have held fast to their respective positions, Democrats favoring a large bill with a second stimulus check and Republicans embracing a smaller relief package as a stopgap until the first mass coronavirus vaccines are administered in mid-2021. (Here’s what could happen if a new bill passes with no stimulus check.)

Any proposal is promising as an interim bill, but there are still roadblocks in place. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and McConnell, as the heads of their chambers, have the power to bring a bill to a vote or not. And either party within the chamber could attempt to block it. If a new bill passes the Senate, it would still need to go through the voting process in the House of Representatives, and vice versa, before being signed into law or vetoed by the president.

Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer are under increased pressure to support a smaller stimulus package, even if it means sacrificing some funding programs now, with the chance to revisit more aid before President-elect Joe Biden’s Jan. 20 inauguration

Read more: Want your second stimulus check faster? Do this now

How quickly could a new stimulus package come to a vote?

Here are some possible scenarios that could play out over the coming weeks and months, depending on which way the wind blows in Washington.

When could a stimulus bill or package pass?

House votes Senate votes President signs
Dec 9 Dec 10 Dec 11
Feb 1, 2021 (after inauguration) Feb 2 Feb 3
Feb 16 (Feb 15 is President’s Day) Feb 16 Feb 16
Mar 15 Mar 16 Mar 17

A stimulus bill is completed before Jan. 20
: An agreement is made, and the current House and Senate vote before the new Congress is seated in January. If Trump signs the rescue bill into law, stimulus checks and other aid would likely begin to go out within weeks, with certain groups receiving financial help before the end of 2020.

Negotiators agree on a stimulus deal, but it fails in either the House or Senate: In this situation, Democrats and Republicans could advance their own proposals that might pass in their majority chambers but fail (or fail to be considered) by the other. In this case, Congress might try again after Biden is sworn in as president.

A smaller bill could pass now, and a larger one could happen later: It’s possible that a subset of programs would get funded before Biden becomes president, for example unemployment aid or an extension of the eviction ban, with the new Congress revisiting other programs, like a second stimulus check, after his inauguration. As sitting president, Trump would need to sign any bill passed before Jan. 20 into law for it to take effect.

Talks once again fall apart until after Jan. 20: If partisan differences keep a bill from passing, it’s likely they’ll restart in some capacity after the inauguration in January. Here are some executive actions Biden could take immediately if a stimulus bill doesn’t pass by the time he’s sworn in as president.

If a bill does pass that includes a direct payment, here’s how quickly we think the IRS could send a second stimulus check.


Stimulus negotiations are under incredible stress.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Why the Democrats’ $2.2 trillion stimulus proposal still matters

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

It provides the framework Pelosi is working from now and might work from in the future, if a smaller bill passes. This revised Heroes Act has Biden’s support and could figure into future negotiations, depending on whether Georgia’s state runoff on Jan. 5 gives Democrats control of the Senate (Republicans currently maintain a two-seat lead).

Which funding measures do Democrats and Republicans agree on?

Proposals from both sides have included the Paycheck Protection Program for businesses, enhanced unemployment insurance, and another stimulus payment of up to $1,200 for individuals who meet the requirements. Although not every commonality would make it into a smaller bill, if that were to pass first, these measures are most likely to gain bipartisan support. The two sides also agree on more financial assistance for coronavirus testing and vaccine deployment.

Here are more details on the biggest points of contention between the White House, Republicans and Democrats.

For more information about stimulus checks, here’s how soon you might get your second stimulus check now, what you should do to speed up the delivery of a potential second 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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