Congressional leaders are scrambling to put together a new COVID-19 relief bill before millions of Americans lose unemployment benefits and eviction protections at the end of the year, and as new virus cases spike across the United States.
Although relief talks have dragged on for months, we've seen two recent proposals. There is a bipartisan compromise bill with a $908 billion price tag, which Democratic leadership has indicated support for. And then there is a $500 billion "targeted" bill, which has support from Republican leadership, specifically Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. And neither proposal contains a second stimulus check.
While a deal is still far from a certainty at this point, there's reason to believe that an agreement could be reached before the holidays, and that whatever agreement is reached will contain another economic impact payment, or stimulus check.
First, on the subject of timing, we know that negotiations have a time limit, and it is rapidly approaching. Congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle want to attach the next round of relief to a government funding bill. Current government funding runs out on Friday, Dec. 11, and even with a proposed one-week extension, this gives a hard deadline on Dec. 18. So, although Congress hasn't been able to agree on any significant relief since March, the sense of urgency has picked up steam.
Second, while neither of the most recent proposals included a stimulus check, this has suddenly emerged as a sticking point. There seems to be more support (and in some cases, demand) for a stimulus check, and from members of both parties. While it's no secret that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is a fan of stimulus checks, Sen. Josh Hawley, a Missouri Republican, has signaled opposition to any package that doesn't include a direct payment. Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont Independent, has indicated the same. Recent reports even indicate that President Donald Trump wants a stimulus check included and that McConnell's opposition isn't as strong as it had been.
Obviously, nobody knows what a finalized agreement will look like just yet. But the chances of a second stimulus check being included in it have increased dramatically over the last day or so.