The clock is ticking for Congress to reach a deal before breaking for the election.

Sarah Tew/CNET

In a chaotic week bookended by the first presidential debate and President Donald Trump’s hospitalization with COVID-19, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin continue to push forward on an agreement for a second economic rescue proposal that would deliver a second stimulus check and other aid as the coronavirus pandemic surpasses 1 million deaths worldwide.

“I’m optimistic. I’m always optimistic,” Pelosi said on MSNBC Friday about reaching a deal. “We always have to find a path. That is our responsibility to do so. And I believe that we will.”

It isn’t clear if Trump’s illness and the growing number of positive COVID-19 cases among Republican leaders could upend any progress the two side are making, or if the spread of the coronavirus through GOP leaders will underscore the urgency to agree on a bill before the Nov. 3 presidential election.

In a letter to House colleagues on Friday, Pelosi outlined the big differences the two sides need to bridge, from enhanced unemployment benefits to local funding: “We are expecting a response from the White House on these areas and others with more detail. In the meantime, we continue to work on the text to move quickly to facilitate an agreement.”

Mnuchin has also contacted Senate Republicans on Thursday to prepare them for the outlines of a deal, the Washington Post reported.

Mnuchin and Pelosi are expected to continue talks through the weekend, Politico reported. What happens next with negotiations in light of Trump’s hospitalization? We’ve laid out some possible outcomes. Check back for updates.

Read more: The most important things to know about stimulus checks and how taxes and stimulus checks are like two peas in a pod.

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Next stimulus checks: What to expect


What effect does Trump’s hospitalization have on stimulus bill negotiations?

For now, that’s uncertain. Mnuchin and Pelosi are expected to continue discussions.

“Maybe this will be the moment where people will say, OK, masks, sanitation, treatment,” Pelosi said Friday morning, before Trump was hospitalized. “It might be a learning experience.”

Pelosi and Mnuchin have both tested negative for COVID-19. 

The current mood about stimulus aid negotiations

After weeks of stalled negotiations, Pelosi and Mnuchin spoke daily this past week as they continue to work toward an agreement on a coronavirus relief bill.

Following the letter Pelosi sent to House Democrats outlining the areas of disagreement, the Speaker and Mnuchin  spoke, according the Pelosi’s deputy chief of staff, to discuss the outstanding issues Pelosi outlined in her letter.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell seemed cautiously optimistic the two sides are working toward middle ground. “I think we’re closer to getting an outcome,” he said Friday.

What does the Heroes 2.0 vote mean for stimulus negotiations?

On Thursday evening, the House of Representatives passed a revised Heroes Act that includes a second stimulus check and additional benefits like enhanced unemployment benefits for tens of millions of Americans.

The new partisan House bill has little chance of advancing through the Republican-controlled Senate.

According to Pelosi, the vote on the revised Heroes bill is independent of ongoing negotiations with Mnuchin. If Pelosi and Mnuchin agree on a new proposal, a new bill would need to be separately drafted and voted on in both the House and Senate before being signed into law. The total cost of the package and funding allocations like a child tax credit have remained chief sticking points.


Will America pass a new stimulus bill? Both sides agree more aid is necessary.

Angela Lang/CNET

Why did the House vote on Heroes 2.0 if talks are underway?

The partisan vote is thought to provide cover for House Democrats as they campaign without a new relief bill, much as the Senate did earlier this month for Republican members with its $650 billion skinny bill. Like the skinny Senate bill, this new House proposal has little chance of advancing in the other chamber.

What do Democrats and Republicans agree on?

Proposals from both sides include another stimulus payment of up to $1,200 for individuals who meet the requirements, among topics like aid for airlines, coronavirus testing and extending the Paycheck Protection Program for businesses.

When’s the fastest a new coronavirus relief bill could pass now? 

With the House scheduled to break following its session Friday and the Senate heading out next week, negotiators are running out of time to reach an agreement on another stimulus package before election day. If negotiations continue, the last day a new bill could pass is up in the air, since the schedules to break can be extended by the leaders of the Senate and House of Representatives.

If the two sides do reach an agreement, it could take a week or more before it comes up for a vote, Politico said.

Possible timelines for when a stimulus bill could pass

House votes Senate votes President signs
Oct. 8 Oct. 9 (last official day of Senate session) Oct. 13 (Columbus Day is Oct. 12)
Oct. 16 Oct. 19 Oct. 20
Oct. 23 Oct. 26 Oct. 27
Oct. 30 Oct. 31 Nov. 2

As we get closer to Nov. 3, the time grows short for Congress to agree on a bill and and then for Trump to sign it for checks to arrive before Election day.

If negotiations fail, could the president seek executive action?

After talks originally collapsed on Aug. 7, Trump signed one executive order and three memoranda the following day. It’s possible more executive actions could be forthcoming if this final attempt at negotiations fails before the election, though there’s been no development after Trump first suggested his administration might consider another executive action to bypass Congress.

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 disagreed on how much relief aid should be included in the stimulus package. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Could talks resume again after election results are in?

If this current sprint of talks dead-ends, leaders may want to see what happens in the period after the election on Nov. 3 and before the presidential inauguration on Jan. 20, 2021. Pelosi and congressional Democrats may also believe they can reach a more favorable deal in 2021, depending on the results of the election.

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

What about passing narrow, standalone bills instead?

If the two sides do reach an agreement but the Senate rejects the new bill, some in Washington say the way to break the stalemate is to pass a series of even narrower bills that target specific areas — such as the entertainment and airline industries — but that’s unlikely to happen before the election.

Senate Republicans made one attempt with its Delivering Immediate Relief to America’s Families, Schools and Small Businesses Act, but that proposal failed in the Senate. The House also presented a piecemeal bill seeking to provide funding to the US Postal Service ahead of an election in which many Americans, wary of in-person voting during a pandemic, will likely be voting by mail

What happens now?

For now, there’s nothing to do but wait and see how Trump’s recovery progresses and how the ongoing negotiation efforts play out. 

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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