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Stimulus package negotiations right now: Both sides riled up as talks hit new milestone – CNET

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

Sarah Tew/CNET

On Friday, the White House delivered a $1.8 trillion stimulus proposal to lead Democratic negotiator, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. But by Saturday, everyone seems upset. 

“On Friday, the Trump Administration returned to the table with a proposal that attempted to address some of the concerns Democrats have in the coronavirus relief negotiations,” Pelosi wrote in a letter to colleagues. “This proposal amounted to one step forward, two steps back.”

Criticism was so sharp among Senate Republicans, 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. The Republican-led Senate is so divided, it failed to pass the GOP-authored HEALS Act for $1 trillion.

With the Nov. 3 election just over three weeks away, Washington lawmakers have explored everything from another comprehensive rescue package to a standalone bill for a second stimulus check and airline aid. Lead negotiators, Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, continue to talk through the weekend.

The White House’s $1.8 trillion proposal is an increase in funding compared to the $1.6 trillion proposal that was on the table before Trump and two dozen others in his circle were diagnosed with COVID-19. The bill includes a stimulus check 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!” Prsident Donald 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 first 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 pass with talks back on? 

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 vote on 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 were 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.

Where do Democrats and Republicans agree?

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 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.