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

Angela Lang/CNET

With the Senate in session just a handful of days before it breaks prior to the Nov. 3 election, White House and Democratic negotiators are under a tight deadline to agree on another stimulus deal if they want to get the next round of stimulus checks into voters’ hands before they mark their ballots.

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives will extend its session until a deal is reached. “We have to stay here until we have a bill,” the Washington Post reported Speaker Nancy Pelosi telling House Democrats this week. We’ve mapped out possible dates a bill could pass in a chart below before the Senate’s scheduled recess.

The urgency over a relief bill grows as a series of proposals have come before Congress — including the Democratic-backed HEROES Act, the Republican-supported HEALS Act and a recent “skinny” bill — and failed to gain broader bipartisan support.

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Next stimulus checks: What to expect


To prod negotiations, a bipartisan group of representatives presented a compromise proposal on Tuesday that White House economic adviser Tyler Goodspeed told Bloomberg is promising. “We are very keen on a second round of economic impact payments,” Goodspeed said on Tuesday. “We were encouraged to see bipartisan action in the House, and we really, really hope that this puts pressure on House leadership to act.”

Though the next steps are unknown, we’ve identified at least five possible scenarios that could yet play out and the last chance for a bill to pass ahead of the US election. Here are the six most important things to know about stimulus checks. This story is updated often.

The current cutoff to pass a stimulus bill by Nov. 3

The Senate is scheduled to break till after the election following its current session, which ends on Oct. 9 — 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 negotiators close in on a deal, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell could compel the Senate to stay in session, or to come back early to vote on a proposal.

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.)

Congress could pass focused, smaller bills instead

Instead of working on one comprehensive bill, some on 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


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

Sarah Tew/CNET

The president could decide to take executive action

After talks originally collapsed on Aug. 7, President Donald 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.


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

Sarah Tew/CNET

Congress could put off a relief decision till 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, Washington 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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