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New battle erupts over stimulus negotiations and package. Will America wait 2 more months?

Whether the next COVID-19 relief bill will pass before the presidential inauguration in January -- or after -- is the next battleground for stimulus aid.


Congress and the White House have officially moved back the goalposts on the next coronavirus relief bill.

Angela Lang/CNET

The latest conflict over America's next stimulus package doesn't just have to do with how much it costs or what it contains. With three days until the Nov. 3 election, the conversation that boiled over on Friday is when new COVID-19 relief aid should pass.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Friday that a much narrower bill than the one currently under negotiations should pass in January, which is two months away. 

"We probably need to do another package, certainly more modest than the $3 trillion dollar [House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi package. I think that'll be something we'll need to do right at the beginning of the year," McConnell said on a radio show with conservative host Hugh Hewitt. McConnell seemingly referred to the House of Representatives' Heroes Act from May 15. On Oct. 1, the House passed a revised version of the bill for $2.2 trillion.

"Certainly, we'll have something at the start of the new presidency, but we don't want to have to wait that long, because people have needs," Pelosi said Friday in an interview with MSNBC.

McConnell's statement, along with a desire to funnel a smaller amount of aid to small businesses, hospitals and schools, is the Senate leader's latest break with President Donald Trump, who has lavishly supported a sweeping bill that also includes a second stimulus check and renewed unemployment benefits among other funding.

"We will have a tremendous stimulus package immediately after the election," Trump said Friday to reporters. Earlier in the week, Trump seemingly based his commitment on the condition that he'll win and that the House of Representatives and Senate have Republican majorities. Former Vice President and presidential candidate Joe Biden -- who also has a stimulus plan -- is currently ahead in the polls, according to polling website Five Thirty Eight. (Note: Polls are one indicator, but not always an accurate reflection of future results.)

As Senate Majority Leader, McConnell has the power to set the agenda for when his chamber votes on legislation. He'll retain his position until at least Jan. 3 when the new term of Congress is sworn in. Although he has previously committed to bringing a deal to the Senate for a vote, Friday's statement hints that he could delay a vote. A bill must pass both the Senate and House before the sitting president can sign it into law.

Even if McConnell didn't oppose the current $1.9 trillion stimulus package being hammered out by Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who represents the White House administration, passing a bill shortly after the election faces hurdles. Agreeing on a final bill is one of them. The transition to a new term of government is another. 

Known as "lame duck," the period between Nov. 4 and Jan. 19 is a notorious dead zone when it comes to passing new legislation, with the exception of emergency measures like avoiding a US government shutdown on Dec. 11

Now playing: Watch this: Next stimulus checks: What to expect

"The motivation level on both sides will depend on how the election comes out, but I think either way we'll do something," Senate Republican Whip John Thune told The Hill. "The question is how much."

An earlier passage would mean that Secretary Treasury Steven Mnuchin, who represents the Republican White House administration in stimulus talks with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi representing the Democrats, could send the first stimulus checks within a week of a bill being signed into law, he said in August.

Read moreYou don't have to be a US citizen living in American to get a stimulus check

Meanwhile, the coronavirus cases hit a grim daily record of 99,000 new cases in one day on Friday, with hospitalizations up across the country and deaths on the rise. COVID-19 aid is seen as necessary to help bolster an uncertain economy and help individual families prepare for a winter surge in cases that experts fear is coming. Without more federal stimulus aid, state budgets could fall short by as much as $434 billion through 2022, according to a report from Moody's Analytics.

What happens now, and how could it affect Americans and the economy? Here's what we know today. We update this story with new information when it's available.


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

Sarah Tew/CNET

These 4 things could happen after the Nov. 3 election

Here are some possible scenarios that could play out over the coming weeks.

A White House offer is completed after Nov. 3: An agreement is made and the current House and Senate vote. If Trump signs it into law, stimulus checks and other aid would likely begin to go out within weeks, with certain groups receiving financial help before the end of 2020.

A White House offer is finalized and fails in the Senate: In this situation, the House could vote on a deal after the election, but the current Senate, which is Republican-led, could vote it down, so the bill would not become law. In this case, Congress might try again after the next members of the House of Representatives and Senate convene Jan. 3, 2021.

Some funding could be included in a bill that also funds the government past Dec 11: It's possible that one piece of funding, for example a stimulus check, unemployment aid or an extension of the eviction stay, could make it into a bill to keep the government funded past Dec. 11 and avoid a shutdown.

Talks stop until after the election results are in: If talks grind to a halt after the election, it's likely they'll restart in some capacity after the inauguration in January. It's been speculated that if Trump loses the election and if the Senate loses its majority, there will be little incentive for Congress to pass a sweeping package until 2021 during the transition.

To help visualize when a bill could pass, we've come up with five possible dates, both before and after the November election. If a bill does pass that includes a direct payment, here's how quickly we think the IRS could send a second stimulus check.

When could a stimulus bill or package pass?

House votes Senate votes President signs
Nov. 9 (Senate back from recess)
Nov. 10 (If House returns early from recess) Nov. 12 (Nov. 11 is Veteran's Day)
Nov. 16 (House back in session) Nov. 17
Nov. 18
Nov. 23
Nov. 24
Nov. 25
Dec. 11 Dec. 12 Dec. 13
Feb. 1, 2021 Feb. 2, 2021 Feb. 3, 2021

How the House's stimulus bill from early October plays a role

On Oct. 1, the House of Representatives passed a revised Heroes Act that includes a second stimulus check and additional benefits such as enhanced unemployment benefits for tens of millions of Americans. The new House bill, endorsed primarily by Democrats, was not expected to advance through the Republican-controlled Senate, and indeed has not.

However, it provides the framework Pelosi is working from, and could figure into future negotiations, depending on election results that could potentially shift the balance one way or another.

The vote was thought to provide cover for House Democrats as they campaign without a new relief bill, much as the Senate did earlier in September for Republican members with its $650 billion skinny bill

What do Democrats and Republicans agree on?

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

Although the Senate's targeted bills, which did not advance, did not include stimulus checks, Republicans (including those in the Senate) have supported them. 

Here are more details on the biggest points of contention between the White House Republicans and the Democrats.

For more information about stimulus checks, here's how soon you might get your second stimulus check now and what to know about the HEALS, CARES and Heroes stimulus bill proposals that could help inform a final package.