As members of Congress headed back to Capitol Hill on Monday, nailing out the details of an additional stimulus relief bill was promised to be taking top priority amid hopes to pass a deal before the end of the year. With the Senate now back in session following a brief adjournment and the few remaining COVID-19 benefits set to expire on Dec. 31, when will negotiations resume, and what happens if they again collapse?
At this time, it remains unclear when, exactly, discussions regarding the next stimulus package will begin again, though numerous lawmakers have made it clear that such talks are among the most pressing matters. Speaking during a press conference on Nov. 4, the newly re-elected Mitch McConnell – who is poised to take the lead on negotiations as the White House reportedly sidelines itself from any further discussions – told reporters that a bill is “job one” and that "we need to do it before the end of the year." House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has been in negations for months now, expressed a similar sentiment, stating that "while we prepare for the new Biden administration, we must also move swiftly for a new coronavirus relief bill" and issued a call for "Republicans to come back to the table."
Despite this, some have expressed doubt that a stimulus deal will actually be the most pressing matter on lawmakers' minds, given that Congress has a Dec. 11 deadline to pass a government funding bill. As CNET points out, however, the push to pass a funding bill has the potential to restart negotiations, as it is possible that some aspects of stimulus relief – a second round of stimulus checks, unemployment aid, or an extension of the eviction stay, for example – could make it into a bill to keep the government funded. Should this happen, the bill, including the stimulus relief provisions, would need to be approved and signed by President Donald Trump.
The outlet reports that it is also possible that should negotiations resume, a bill is materialized and brought to the House of Representatives and the Senate for a vote. If such a bill is passed in both chambers and receives Trump's approval, aid could go out in a matter of weeks. If it were to fail in either chamber, however, additional aid may be delayed until after the new year, potentially not until after Inauguration Day, a scenario that could also play out if discussions resume but later collapse, as has been the case with all previous negotiations.
An additional stimulus bill, which has received varying support from lawmakers, has been dubbed as crucial by some economists, with Jerome Powell, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, stating that "we'll have a stronger recovery if we can just get at least some more fiscal support."