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Can a new standalone bill for a stimulus check still pass before the election? What we know – CNET

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

Sarah Tew/CNET

Will Congress help the American people with more stimulus aid in 2020? President Donald Trump issued two contradictory directives to the GOP via Twitter on Tuesday. First, he told Republicans to halt negotiations with Democrats for another stimulus package. Before the end of the day, he tweeted that Congress should pass more economic aid, including a second $1,200 stimulus check, and he would immediately sign it.

Trump’s opposing tweets, issued one day after returning to the White House from a three-day hospitalization with coronavirus symptoms — for which he continues to undergo treatment reserved for extremely ill patients —  sharply punctuated a months-long journey by Republican and Democratic leaders to reach an agreement on a deal to fund programs that include small business aid, unemployment benefits and a second direct payment.

Wednesday morning, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows confirmed that the administration wants standalone bills. “We’re still willing to be engaged… I am optimistic that there’s about 10 things that we can do on a piecemeal basis,” Meadows said on Fox News.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has already begun to speak with co-negotiator Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and will continue discussions Thursday, Pelosi’s spokesperson tweeted, as plans take a new direction. 

Why did Trump call off the bigger stimulus package and what’s the revised timeline for a new bill to pass? We’ll share what we know about the suddenly tenuous future of negotiations and will update this story often as news develops.

Read more: The most important things to know about stimulus checks and every way your taxes affect stimulus checks.

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Why did Trump shut down the stimulus talks?

Earlier this week, Pelosi said negotiators would reach a deal on a comprehensive package “one way or another,” despite sticking points. So why did Trump pull the plug?

With Election Day 27 days away, the reasoning Trump shared included his belief that a deal on a stimulus package wouldn’t be reached and that he wanted the Senate to turn its attention to the nomination of Supreme Court associate justice nominee Amy Coney Barrett, the president’s pick. It’s been suggested Trump and fellow high-ranking Republicans who tested positive for COVID-19 acquired the coronavirus on Barrett’s nomination day, at events where mask wearing was not universal. 

The Senate, which paused in-person floor votes until Oct. 19 after three Republicans tested positive with COVID-19, is already moving forward on Barrett’s nomination in committee meetings, which can take place remotely. Prior to Trump’s tweets, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had said his chamber would reconvene to vote on a stimulus package if a deal was made.

A tweet from Trump early Tuesday made his desire for more aid clear. “When, immediately after I win, we will pass a major Stimulus Bill that focuses on hardworking Americans and Small Business,” he tweeted.

When could a new coronavirus relief bill pass if nothing happens before Nov. 3? 

Pelosi Tuesday evening said Congress could pick up the thread on another economic rescue package following the election. We’ve suggested four possible dates, based on the new timeline, both before and after the November election. These are speculative only. In the case of a second stimulus check, here’s how quickly we think the IRS could send one.

When could a standalone stimulus bill or package pass?

House votes Senate votes President signs
Oct. 19 Oct. 20 Oct. 21
Nov. 9 Nov. 10 Nov. 11
Nov. 16 Nov. 17 Nov. 18
Nov. 23 Nov. 24 Nov. 25
Feb. 1, 2021 Feb. 2, 2021 Feb. 3, 2021

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 such as 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 was independent of ongoing negotiations with Mnuchin. If Pelosi and Mnuchin do 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 pass Heroes 2.0 if talks were 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 Democrats and Republicans 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.

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

Sarah Tew/CNET

With talks on hold, could the president take executive action?

After talks originally collapsed on Aug. 7, Trump signed an 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. 

It’s unclear if Trump would pursue more unilateral action at this point.

Pelosi expressed doubt about Trump’s ability to use executive orders for additional relief funding.

“No. No. He can’t do this by executive order,” she said Oct. 5. “He can’t do the money without the Congress of the United States. The power of the purse begins in the House.”

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

So what happens now?

The situation is still in flux. For now, we wait to see if there are any developments. Anything could still happen. 

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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