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Congress has a handful of days to reach a deal before breaking for the election.


Angela Lang/CNET

Early voting is already starting in many states to decide the Nov. 3 election, which leaves White House and Democratic negotiators just a handful of weeks to work out the next economic relief bill, if they want to send out a second round of stimulus checks before voters cast their ballots

Both sides of the aisle say they support more economic stimulus and this week, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell will also throw his support behind more aid, as he testifies before three congressional committees.

“Household spending looks to have recovered about three-fourths of its earlier decline, likely owing in part to federal stimulus payments and expanded unemployment benefits,” Powell said Tuesday in prepared remarks. “Both employment and overall economic activity, however, remain well below their prepandemic levels, and the path ahead continues to be highly uncertain.”

If more stimulus aid does come before rather than after the election, much time is there left to agree on a new bill? We pulled some dates and identified at least five possible scenarios that could yet play out for the next stimulus package. And here are the six most important things to know about stimulus checks. This story is updated often.

The last date a bill could pass before Nov. 3? Some options

The Senate is scheduled to break till after the election following its current session, which ends on Oct. 9. If nothing changes, that’s the last day that a bill has to clear the Senate — but that doesn’t mean it’s the final day a bill could pass.

The House, for example, is prepared to postpone the start of its next break, originally scheduled for Oct. 2, until a deal is reached. If the bill passes the Senate on or by Oct. 9, the House could pass it after that date. And if negotiators close in on a deal, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell could also compel the Senate to stay in session longer, or to come back early to vote on a proposal. 

Still, it’s less likely a bill could pass days before the election as the candidates — including President Donald Trump, who must sign the bill into law — complete their campaigns.

Possible timelines for when a stimulus bill could pass

Senate votes House votes President signs
Sept. 30 Oct. 1 Oct.2
Oct. 9 Oct. 12 Oct. 13
Oct. 16 Oct. 19 Oct. 20
Oct. 23 Oct. 26 Oct. 27

The dates above are based on Congressional voting schedules and the potential of both chambers delaying their planned recess. Based on remarks from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, the IRS could potentially start sending checks before Nov. 3 if a new bill is passed by the third week of October. (Here’s what to know about eligibility.)

After breaking down in August, formal talks for the overarching bill have yet to restart. The total cost of the bill and how the money would be used are at the heart of the disagreement. The White House has hinted it could go up to $1.5 trillion, while the Democrats have come down from their initial $3 trillion proposal to $2.2 trillion, so there has been incremental progress. (The failed Republican skinny bill was estimated at between $300 billion and $650 billion.)


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Next stimulus checks: What to expect



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Congress could pass standalone bills instead

Instead of working on one comprehensive bill, some in Washington say the way to break the stalemate is to pass a series of smaller bills that target specific areas. There is growing support among House Democrats for passing a smaller bill now and then continuing to work out other issues, Politico reported.

Pelosi has steadfastly opposed smaller deals and remains intent on passing a comprehensive bill.  

The Senate made one attempt with its Delivering Immediate Relief to America’s Families, Schools and Small Businesses Act, but it didn’t have enough votes to proceed. The House also presented a piecemeal bill seeking to provide funding to the US Postal Service ahead of an election in which many will likely be voting by mail

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The end of all talks would be devastating to millions of Americans.


Sarah Tew/CNET

The president could take executive action

After talks originally collapsed on Aug. 7, Trump took unilateral action by signing one executive order and three memoranda on Aug. 8. It’s possible more executive actions are coming.

During a news conference on Sept. 4 Trump said the administration might consider another executive action to release $300 billion in unused stimulus aid for Americans, if Congress doesn’t vote to redirect those funds. There’s been no development since, however.

Trump’s current COVID-19 relief executive actions address slowing evictions, extending unemployment benefits to a lesser degree and deferring payroll taxes until next year.

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Democrats and Republicans have disagreed on how much relief aid should be included in the stimulus package. 


Sarah Tew/CNET

Negotiators could postpone the stimulus package until after the election

With the Nov. 3 election less than two months away, the atmosphere in Washington could be too politically charged to pass more economic relief bills, and leaders may want to see what happens after the election.

With 470 seats in the US Congress — 35 Senate seats and all 435 House seats — up for election in November, any change in majority to the House or Senate, and to the presidency itself, could shift the likelihood of certain laws being passed one way or another.

The government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic is already playing heavily in the campaign at all levels. If a deal isn’t reached soon, the topic of a relief package could very well come up during town halls or debates held in the coming weeks. 

If talks fail, lawmakers could take no additional action

We think this outcome is less likely, but it’s not outside the realm of possibility. Unemployment remains at staggeringly high levels and a housing crisis looms on the horizon. If no action is taken on a relief package, individual bills or executive orders, it could potentially cause the economy to plunge into a deeper recession, as economists say the damage already done is beginning to mirror the Great Recession of the late 2000s

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.

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