Fourth stimulus check — support growing in Senate despite long odds

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Progressive lawmakers and lobbyists in Washington, D.C. are continuing to advocate for additional stimulus relief for individuals and families, though their proposals face an uphill battle in both Congress and at the White House. 

A group of 21 Senate Democrats on Tuesday (March 30) sent a letter to President Biden calling for recurring direct payments and ongoing federal unemployment benefits to be included in the administration's infrastructure package. 

"Automatic stabilizers will give families certainty that more relief is coming, allowing them to make the best decisions about how to spend their relief payments as they receive them," the lawmakers wrote. 

"Families shouldn't have to worry about whether they'll have enough money to pay for essentials in the months ahead as the country continues to fight a global pandemic." 

The proposal did not cite a specific amount for future stimulus checks, nor what the requirements would be for individuals to receive them.  

The letter was signed by several members of the Senate Democratic leadership: Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Illinois), Deputy Whips Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and Jeffrey Merkley (D-Oregon) and Assistant Democratic Leader Patty Murray (D-Washington), the third-most senior Democrat. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-New York) did not sign.

A smaller group of 11 Senate Democrats — all of whom also signed onto this most recent letter — sent a similar proposal to the White House in early March, and more than 50 House progressive lawmakers signed onto a January letter calling for direct payments. 

Notably absent were senators who had expressed reservations about the size and scope of the Biden stimulus bill while it was making its way through Congress, including Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona) and Mark Warner (D-Virginia). 

All three ended up voting for the final legislation, the American Recovery Plan Act, after eligibility requirements for the third stimulus checks were tightened.

Could additional relief payments happen? 

Left-leaning policy groups, such as the Urban Institute and the Tax Policy Center, have suggested that additional stimulus checks could lift millions out of poverty. And an internet poll conducted in December by Data for Progress suggested that 65% of Americans supported $2,000-per-month direct payments throughout the course of the pandemic. 

However, some analysts are skeptical that the Biden administration will push for ongoing relief payments among its other priorities, CNBC reports. Neither Biden nor anyone in his administration have publicly commented on the notion of a fourth stimulus check.

GOP lawmakers were already opposed to the third stimulus checks, and there's little reason to believe any could be persuaded to vote for a fourth. 

Passing a bill authorizing a fourth stimulus check would have to be done, as the third bill was, through a special budget process called reconciliation that would require the support of every Democrat in the 50-50 Senate — including the wavering moderates mentioned earlier.

So the odds of a fourth stimulus check are indeed long. But with a significant number of senators pressing for more relief for individuals and families, the idea isn't likely to disappear anytime soon. 

Emily Long

Emily Long is a Utah-based freelance writer who covers consumer technology, privacy and personal finance for Tom's Guide. She has been reporting and writing for nearly 10 years, and her work has appeared in Wirecutter, Lifehacker, NBC BETTER and CN Traveler, among others. When she's not working, you can find her trail running, teaching and practicing yoga, or studying for grad school — all fueled by coffee, obviously.