- The Senate adjourned on October 26th, ending any chance that a new stimulus package would be voted on and passed before the November 3rd election.
- If the Senate immediately takes action upon reconvening on November 9th, there’s a small chance that we could see another round of stimulus checks before 2021.
- If Donald Trump loses and Democrats retake the Senate, Republicans might walk away from discussions altogether, which could push a relief bill to next February.
The United States is currently experiencing its worst COVID-19 outbreak since the pandemic began in March, but if you thought that would be enough to push lawmakers to pass another major stimulus bill, you were mistaken. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin have been attempting to strike a deal for weeks, and while the two were closing in on a dollar amount they could both live with, the devil was in the details.
Any hope of a new stimulus package passing before the election was dashed last week when Majority Leader Mitch McConnell moved to adjourn the Senate right after Amy Coney Barrett was confirmed to the Supreme Court. We will now be waiting until at least November 9th for stimulus news, which is when the Senate reconvenes. Of course, this hinges on the Senate actually voting on a relief bill once it’s back in session, which is not a given.
Before the Senate adjourned last week, there were multiple stimulus proposals floating around Capitol Hill. House Democrats wanted to spend $2.2 trillion on another wide-ranging package that would include a new round of $1,200 direct payments, another unemployment insurance boost, funds for state and local governments, and a national plan for coronavirus testing. The White House countered with a bill of around $1.9 trillion, but Pelosi and Mnuchin couldn’t reach terms when it came to certain policies and the exact language of the bill.
Meanwhile, Senate Republicans made it clear that they weren’t interested in passing a stimulus bill than even began to approach the numbers that Pelosi and Mnuchin were working with, and instead introduced a $500 billion skinny bill without a new round of direct payments. It didn’t get the 60 votes it needed to pass.
Where does all of this leave us when it comes to more financial relief for the American people?
In the best case scenario, if Republicans and Democrats can somehow find common ground shortly after Senators return to Washington, DC on November 9th, more stimulus checks could start going out before the end of December. The CARES Act passed on March 27th, and the first checks were delivered by April 15th. There’s virtually no chance that a new bill will pass within the first few days of the next session, but as the US breaks new records for COVID-19 cases every day and the economic recovery stalls, lawmakers will be under pressure to make something happen. If so, early to mid-December could be a realistic timeline for the second round of checks.
On the other hand, if Joe Biden wins the presidency and Democrats retake the Senate, Republicans may simply lose interest in the deal altogether. Should this scenario come to pass, we would be waiting until after the 117th Congress convenes in January, pushing the stimulus package back to February 2021 at the earliest.
The economy is not in good shape, and even if a vaccine is approved for emergency use in early 2021, a majority of us won’t have a chance to get inoculated until at least the second half of the year. As such, it’s very hard to imagine a scenario where more stimulus wouldn’t be necessary. At this point, it’s a matter of when, not if.