As coronavirus cases continue to surge across the country, the chance of another stimulus bill passing in the near future is growing slimmer and slimmer. Although there had once been hope that another relief bill — and potentially including a second round of stimulus checks — could pass by the end of 2020, a number of lawmakers are now expressing doubt that a deal will be struck during the current lame-duck session.
The latest casting of doubt came Monday from Republican Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama. Speaking to reporters, Shelby indicated that the possibility for another relief bill "doesn't look good," Politico Playbook reporter Jake Sherman shared. The lack of additional aid – which is badly needed as a number of provisions, including several unemployment benefit programs, enacted under the CARES Act are set to expire by the end of December – is largely due to a "big gulf" between the two sides.
SEN. @SenShelby: covid stimulus “doesn’t look good.” “Big gulf” between the two sides, he says.— Jake Sherman (@JakeSherman) November 30, 2020
This divide between Republicans and Democrats has been longstanding and has proven to be the greatest obstacle in passing additional relief. Although the two sides came together to quickly pass the CARES Act in both chambers of Congress in March, nearly all efforts to pass further aid have failed. In May, Democrats introduced the CARES Act, though Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has thus far refused to bring it to the Senate floor for a vote. Two months later, in July, the GOP introduced the HEALS Act, which immediately prompted negotiations between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows. As those discussions eventually reached a "tragic impasse," Senate Republicans introduced several smaller bills that were ultimately blocked by Democrats in Senate votes.
As the election neared, however, many lawmakers had expressed a belief that the lame-duck session would lead to progress in discussions. One senior Senate GOP aide told The Hill that there would be "more opportunity" after the election to negotiate and strike a deal, and several other lawmakers said there would be "a strong incentive" to approve a stimulus bill during the lame-duck session, as it will make it easier to put together a full-year annual appropriations package before Christmas. This tone, however, seemed to shift greatly in the weeks that followed, with Sen. John Cornyn, a Republican from Texas, stating in mid-November, "I am kind of discouraged, frankly, right now."
Although it seems unlikely that a bill will be passed by the end of the year, it is possible that a bill will come after President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in as president on Jan. 20. He has already laid out a relief plan. Congress, meanwhile, is set to begin their scheduled recess later this month, with both chambers not expected to return to Capitol Hill until after the new year.