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


Angela Lang/CNET

Thursday could present a make-it-or-break-it moment for getting a second stimulus check approved before the Nov. 3 election. Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi are continuing face-to-face, down-to-the-wire talks today on a new bipartisan stimulus bill, after meeting for 90 minutes on Wednesday on Capitol Hill.

If Pelosi and Mnuchin agree on the terms — the total cost of the package could remain the chief sticking point — then a brand-new proposal would need to be drafted and voted on in both the House and Senate before being signed into law. The White House has a new $1.62 trillion offer, while Pelosi is at $2.2 trillion, still a wide gulf. 

Regardless of whether discussions succeed or break down, the House intends to vote today on a $2.2 trillion bill it has waiting in the wings, Pelosi said in a press conference Thursday. The partisan vote would 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, though this new House proposal wouldn’t be expected to pass the Senate.

Both sides include another direct payment of up to $1,200 in their proposals for those who meet the requirements.

So when’s the soonest a new coronavirus relief bill could pass and what could happen next if it doesn’t? We’ve mapped out some dates and possible scenarios below. (And here are the most important things to know about stimulus checks.) We update this story often.

How a new package is still possible before Nov. 3

With the House scheduled to break following its Friday session tomorrow 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

If the two sides don’t reach an agreement this week, it’s less likely a bill could pass in the handful of days before the election as members of Congress and the presidential candidates — President Donald Trump, who must sign the bill into law, and Democratic nominee Joe Biden — turn their attention to campaigning.


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If negotiations fail, the president could 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.

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


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Talks could 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.

Congress could focus on standalone bills following the election

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

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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