In an unexpected realignment of priorities this week, lawmakers from both parties as well as the White House seemed ready to move forward with a larger coronavirus-relief stimulus bill that would include stimulus check 2. Yet there's late word that the Senate may go home soon and not take up the issue at all.
President Trump tweeted yesterday (Sept. 16) that Republicans should "go for the much higher numbers" in a stimulus package, a position that Democrats have taken in negotiations between the two parties.
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The Washington Post reports that Trump last night also expressed support for a new bill proposed by the Problem Solvers Caucus, a bipartisan group of House members, that would cost an estimated $1.5 trillion to $2 trillion.
"I like the larger amount," Trump said, according to the Post. "I want to see people get money."
The Problem Solvers bill includes stimulus check 2, funding for state and local governments and a resumption of federal unemployment-benefit supplements.
The unemployment supplements would start at $450 per week for two months and increase to $600 per week thereafter as long as the combined state and federal payment is less than the recipient's previous income — a key provision for House Republicans. The exact cost of the proposal is murky because there's no firm end date for those weekly unemployment benefits.
While leaders from both parties have already rejected the Problem Solvers bill, either because it goes too far or doesn't go far enough, it does have some bipartisan support and comes closer to what House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) has been pushing for.
The House already passed a $3.4 trillion package — the HEROES Act — in May. Over the course of the summer, Pelosi dropped the cost of Democratic demands to $2.2 trillion, hoping to meet the Republicans halfway during negotiations to reconcile the HEROES Act bill with the Senate GOP's $1.1 trillion HEALS Act.
What's happening with stimulus-bill negotiations?
Pelosi spoke with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin by phone on Wednesday, their first conversation in several weeks. Mnuchin is negotiating on behalf of the Trump administration and the Senate Republican leadership and has previously indicated a willingness to support a $1.5 trillion stimulus package. However, face-to-face talks have been on hold since mid-August, leaving a $700 billion gap between the two sides.
While both Democrats and Republicans are itching to pass some kind of new stimulus bill before Election Day on Nov. 3, centrist House Democrats in particular, several of whom helped craft the Problem Solvers' bill, are putting pressure on Pelosi. She has indicated that the House will remain in session until a deal is reached.
That just leaves Senate Republicans, who failed to advance a largely symbolic "skinny" relief package late last week. Politico reports that the GOP has "brushed off" Trump's call for a larger stimulus bill.
In fact, Senate lawmakers may head home soon — two weeks ahead of their scheduled Oct. 9 recess — to campaign in their states, with no plan to return to Washington until after Nov. 3.