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Can the stimulus deal be saved? Both sides under pressure as talks hit headwinds – CNET

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

Sarah Tew/CNET

While continuing to meet on the outlines of another economic stimulus bill, negotiators face continued turbulence in their attempt to reach an agreement before the Nov. 3 election. On Friday, the White House delivered a $1.8 trillion stimulus proposal to House Speaker and lead Democratic negotiator Nancy Pelosi. But by Saturday, no one was happy with the pitch. 

“Unfortunately, the Trump administration proposal does not meet the health needs of this crisis,” Pelosi who wrote on Sunday.

Criticism was so pointed among Senate Republicans, who resist a larger deal, that White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows hinted how the opposition to the bill would anger President Donald Trump when Meadows told him. “You all will have to come to my funeral,” The Washington Post reported Meadows saying. 

Opposition on the Republican side to more relief is so hardened, the Republican-led Senate failed to pass the GOP-authored HEALS Act for $1 trillion. However, both sides say they want negotiations to continue, and some, like Republican senator Lindsey Graham, have shown outspoken support.

“I don’t think it is dead at all,” said White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union. “If an agreement can be reached, [Senate Republicans] will go along with it.”

With the Nov. 3 election just 23 days away, Washington lawmakers have explored options that range from the comprehensive rescue package to standalone bills for a second stimulus check and airline aid. The bill final bill is expected to include a direct payment of as much as $1,200 per person and a change in eligibility rules for dependents that could yield more money for families.

“Covid Relief Negotiations are moving along. Go Big!” Trump tweeted on Friday, following a wildly erratic week where Trump — who has been treated for COVID-19 with a powerful steroid — canceled talks to pass a comprehensive stimulus bill and demanding they restart, all in the same day.

We explain more about the twists and turns of stimulus negotiations below. This story was recently updated.

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Why did Trump initially pause stimulus talks?

On Oct. 5, Pelosi said negotiators would reach a deal on a comprehensive package “one way or another,” despite sticking points. So why did Trump initially pull the plug a day later?

According to Trump on Oct. 6, his belief that a deal on a stimulus package wouldn’t be reached in the short time left and desire to quickly confirm Supreme Court associate justice nominee Amy Coney Barrett, led to the decision. It’s been suggested that 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. 

A tweet from Trump early Tuesday expressed a desire for more aid clearly: “When, immediately after I win, we will pass a major Stimulus Bill that focuses on hardworking Americans and Small Business,” he tweeted. By Friday, however, efforts to put together an overarching bill had redoubled.

It’s also been suggested that a phone call Tuesday with Senate Majority Mitch McConnell, who was skeptical that the bill would pass the Senate, prompted Trump’s abrupt end to talks. It’s also been suggested that the tremendous backlash from economists, businesses and even members of his own party, coupled with an immediate stock market drop, also propelled him to change course and embrace a larger package once again.

When could a new relief bill potentially pass? 

Pelosi said Tuesday evening that Congress could pick up the thread on another economic rescue package following the election. But with Trump urging action now, we’ve suggested five 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 stand-alone stimulus bill or package pass?

House votes Senate votes President signs
Oct. 26 Oct. 27 Oct. 28
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 just pass a new stimulus bill? What’s the story?

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 vote on Heroes 2.0 if talks are continuing?

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 areas 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 dragging on, could Trump 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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