Stimulus Check Talks Stalled: Who's to Blame?

The summer is almost over, and there is still no sign of a second stimulus check after Republicans and Democrats ended their talks on Aug. 7 without reaching a deal on the next coronavirus economic relief package. As with any issue in Washington, blame was passed around from side to side, with both complaining that neither was willing to give on their stated positions. Both parties agree that another stimulus check is needed, so the hang-up has been on various other differences between Democrats and Republicans.

The House and Senate both began their August recesses without a deal in place, but the House was called back into session over the weekend to deal with the growing crisis at the U.S. Postal Service. On Saturday, the House passed a $25 billion funding bill, with only 26 Republicans joining the Democratic majority. While the House was in town, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows visited the Capitol to meet with members of both parties, but he did not meet with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. "If she wants to strike a deal with the president of the United States on behalf of the American people, the president is willing to do that," Meadows told reporters. "At the same time, that deal needs to be based on real numbers and real issues that are urgent in terms of their need to be addressed, and not a partisan wish list."

On Sunday, Meadows told ABC News' This Week he still had not spoken with Pelosi but planned to call her. He said he wished Pelosi was open to passing a package on the issues where the two sides agree. "Why did you not do it yesterday? But let's go ahead and pass it," Meadows said. "I spoke to the president early this morning. He's willing to sign that, including Postal Service reform and making sure that the money is there to make sure that deliveries of first call mail are handled quickly, efficiently, and on time."

Pelosi defended taking on the USPS issue by itself on Saturday instead of working on a relief package that included other problems. "The public is demanding action on this now," the California Democrat said on CNN's State of the Union. "I can't see how the Senate can avoid it unless they do so to their peril." Pelosi said she could not see how Senate Republicans could "avoid" the USPS funding bill, which she believes should have "bipartisan" support. However, the Senate is unlikely to pass it.

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The House did pass the $3 trillion HEROES Act in May, which did include a stimulus check. The Senate never took the legislation on, as Republicans complained it was too costly. Instead, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell waited until late July to introduce the $1 trillion HEALS Act, which also included a stimulus check. The HEALS Act then kicked off talks between Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. These talks ended with no deal earlier this month. Pelosi said she offered to cut her proposal to $2 trillion, but the White House rejected it.

On Aug. 18, Republicans released a draft of the Delivering Immediate Relief to America's Families, Schools and Small Businesses Act, considered a "skinny" version of a stimulus package. As Forbes notes, this makes no mention of a $1,200 stimulus check. It does have a federal unemployment benefit of $300 per week, half the size of the weekly benefit that expired at the end of July, running through Dec. 27.