Lawmakers returned to Capitol Hill this week to continue negotiations for the next coronavirus relief package. However, many doubt they will reach a compromise before more than 12 million unemployed workers lose their benefits the day after Christmas.
Although both parties claim they are looking for a middle ground, neither has backed down from their positions. As a result, it is uncertain if Congress will approve more aid before the end of the lame-duck session.
On Monday, President-elect Biden urged lawmakers to set aside partisan differences and approve the $2.2 trillion HEROES Act, which the House passed in May. The HEROES Act contains several key measures, such as another round of stimulus checks and a renewal of supplemental unemployment benefits.
However, the GOP has pushed back against the Democrats’ bill, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell supporting smaller measures that don’t provide direct assistance to struggling Americans.
According to the Hill, which reported on remarks given by Biden in Delaware on Monday, the former Vice President stated, “The refusal of Democrats and Republicans to cooperate with one another is not due to some mysterious force beyond our control. It’s a conscious decision. It’s a choice that we make. If we can decide not to cooperate, then we can decide to cooperate.”
According to Politico, Americans will most likely not receive more direct stimulus payments before Christmas while negotiations remain deadlocked. Additionally, the White House’s support for a $1.9 trillion package it proposed before the election has waned. However, President Trump tweeted last Saturday that the next legislation should be both “big” and “focused.”
Biden has outlined his plans for the next stimulus package, which would include more checks, but he can’t make a move until he is sworn into office on January 20. He has stated he doesn’t want another bill to wait until Inauguration Day, even if President Trump takes undue credit.
During an interview with Sunday’s Meet the Press, Biden’s pick for chief of staff, Ronal Klain, said, “There are a lot of things that are going to have to wait till Joe Biden is president, but this is not one of them.”
Lawmakers are divided over the need for further aid. McConnell and other conservatives believe that as recent signs of economic recovery appear and viable COVID-19 vaccine nears completion, a limited bill would be sufficient until a treatment becomes widely available.
McConnel has said he would back a $500 billion stimulus deal. In a Tuesday tweet, he repeated his stance, saying, “Republicans have tried for weeks to pass another targeted rescue package.”
However, many believe it could take months before a vaccine is ready for mass distribution. During that time, the country’s death toll would continue to climb, and the economy would struggle to recover.
On Tuesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer wrote a letter addressed to McConnell. In it, they wrote, “It is essential that this bill have sufficient funding and deliver meaningful relief to the many Americans who are suffering. For the sake of the country, we ask that you come to the table and work with us to produce an agreement that meets America’s needs in this critical time.”
Could More Stimulus Be Available Before January 20?
No one can say with certainty when the next stimulus package will pass. However, CNET.com offers a few scenarios that could occur between now and Inauguration Day.
Congress Approves A Deal Before January 20
Suppose the House and Senate agree to vote on a measure and President Trump approves it. In that case, Americans could receive another stimulus payment and federal aid as soon as a few weeks — possibly before the end of the year.
Congress Proposes A Bill, And It Fails In Both Chambers
Here, the House and Senate could approve their own legislative proposals but reject the other parties’. In this situation, Congress would likely propose another vote after Biden and the new Congress are sworn in.
Congress Passes A Stopgap Bill
Although Democrats have rejected the idea of a stopgap bill, they may approve a limited version for stimulus checks, unemployment benefits, renter protections, or funding to prevent a federal shutdown after December 11. President Trump would need to sign the bill for it to be implemented.
Congress Fails To Reach A Compromise
If the House, Senate, and White House fail to reach an agreement, negotiations will have to wait until after January 20.
- Dolcourt, Jessica. “Stimulus Negotiations: Congress Is Back in Session, Here’s Where a Second Check Stands.” CNET, CNET, 18 Nov. 2020, www.cnet.com/personal-finance/stimulus-negotiations-congress-is-back-in-session-heres-where-a-second-check-stands/.
- Picchi, Aimee. “12 Million Americans Set to Lose Unemployment Benefits the Day after Christmas.” CBS News, CBS Interactive, 18 Nov. 2020, www.cbsnews.com/news/unemployment-benefits-12-million-lose-after-christmas/.