The United States Senate is still working on the next economic relief package to offset the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, including another stimulus check. This week was an essential milestone in the process, where some progress was made, but some critical deadlines were missed. Now, lawmakers are split on their priorities as Americans grow more desperate for aid.
The Senate is rushing to pass another stimulus package soon, since many of the key benefits of the previous relief bills are running out. When they returned from a two-week recess on July 17, the Senate intended to pass something by July 21, although that goal is now growing more and more distant. Senators are still not considering the HEROES Act — passed by the U.S. Congress in mid-May — insisting that they will write their own legislation instead.
Time is running out; however, as the unemployment enhancement included in the CARES Act expires on July 31. This will leave millions of unemployed Americans unable to pay for housing, food and other essential services. Despite this crunch, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said that they will not consider the HEROES Act, calling it a "catalog of left-wing oddities" and a "wish list."
The Senate is facing pressure from the White House as well, however, as President Donald Trump and members of his administration are reportedly pushing back against some of the Senate's ideas. Trump is taking an active interest in the stimulus package because he believes it will impact his chances at re-election, though technically speaking, it is up to the legislative bodies to write the law. His only job is to pass it.
The climate around the second stimulus check is growing more desperate, and more and more Americans are watching for blow-by-blow coverage of the process. Here is a look at all the significant stimulus updates from this week.
First and foremost, the Senate missed its goal for unveiling a new stimulus propoal on Friday. McConnell conceded on Thursday that they would miss that deadline, according to a report by CNBC. He attributed this to input from the White House.
"The [Trump] administration has requested additional time to review the fine details, but we will be laying down the proposal early next week," McConnell said. "We have an agreement in principle on the shape of the package."prevnext
Stimulus Check Confirmed
While the bill itself is still nowhere in sight, some specifics are beginning to be revealed — including confirmation that both the Senate and the White House intend on including another stimulus check in the package. Some were beginning to doubt that the Republican leaders would prioritize a direct payment in their package since they intend to keep the budget so much lower than previous bills.
"Speaking of building on what worked in the CARES Act, we want another round of direct payments," McConnell told CNN on Tuesday. He added that the payments will "help American families keep driving our national comeback" and will help "create more American jobs is an urgent moral priority."prevnext
Meanwhile, the Trump administration revealed on Thursday it is pushing for broader eligibility requirements for the stimulus check than many Americans were expecting, meaning more people will likely benefit from the bill. This is significant, as McConnell had previously suggested that only Americans who claimed a gross annual income of $40,000 or less on their last tax return would be eligible. However, on Thursday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told Newsweek that the eligibility requirements will likely be identical to those in CARES Act.
According to Mnuchin, the stimulus check will be worth up to $1,200 for individuals who made $75,000 or less on their last tax filing. The amount will decrease incrementally from there, cutting off entirely at $98,000. Once again, the amounts will be doubled for couples who file jointly, and an additional $500 will be included for underage dependents on the filers' taxes.prevnext
According to a report by The Hill, the second stimulus package will not include renewal or an extension of the $600 unemployment enhancement. Instead, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows told reporters that they are working with Senators on a different to deal with the problem of lacking unemployment payments.
"We're really trying to look at trying to make sure that we have a comprehensive bill that deals with the issues," Meadows said. "Any short-term extensions would defy the history of Congress, which would indicate that it would just be met with another short-term extension. We're optimistic that we can continue to find a real solution and hopefully reaching a compromise."
What exactly their new plan has not been revealed, however, Republicans had previously proposed the idea of a smaller federal enhancement to unemployment checks, perhaps with different parameters. This key issue may be one of the reasons the bill has been delayed.prevnext
In another interview with Fox Business, Mnuchin highlighted the idea of including federal funding for public schools in the next stimulus package, implying that this is a high priority. From the sound of it, this will not only be intended to ensure safety measures in schools, but to protect schools from lawsuits brought by the families of those who get sick in them.
"We want to make sure that frivolous lawsuits don't prevent schools, universities, and businesses from reopening," he said.
Many are still criticizing the Trump administration's insistence on re-opening public schools across the U.S. this fall, despite the outcry of public health officials.prevnext
With the July 21 benchmark in the rearview mirror, lawmakers are now facing a new deadline for the next stimulus package: Aug. 7. This may be a more firm deadline, as the Senate is schedules to break for a three-week recess on that day. If nothing is passed by then, there may be a 32-day long period where no new legislation can be passed, according to a report by Forbes.
This does not just mean that the bill needs to be written by Aug. 7, but that it needs to be passed by the Senate, negotiated on by the House and then returned to the Senate again. This is normally a prolonged process that has already been shortened severely to deal with the urgent need.
Both the Senate and Congress are capable of altering their recess schedules to work on urgent matters if they need to. However, given that the Senate did not abbreviate its two-week recess in July, it seems safe to assume that they intend to do the same with their break from the first weekend in August until Labor Day.prevnext
With that in mind, the Senate has an ambitious new timeline for the coronavirus relief legislation, and the deployment of the second stimulus check. According to a report by CNBC, McConnell expects to present his completed stimulus package proposal "early next week," and that that will include the consent of the Trump administration. "We have an agreement in principle on the shape of the package," McConnell said.
That would still leave the Senate and Congress with no more than two weeks to negotiate the stimulus bill, meaning it would most likely pass at the last minute on Aug. 7. At that point, the IRS would need at least a little time prepare the stimulus check itself for distribution, though hopefully, it would go faster than last time. The last stimulus check began arriving in bank accounts about a month after the CARES Act was passed.prev