After a failed Senate vote on a "skinny" relief bill last week, and an unexpected declaration of support from President Trump this week, any further steps toward stimulus check 2 may have to come from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California).
Formal negotiations between Democrats and Republicans about the size and shape of a second stimulus package stalled in August, but moderate lawmakers have recently begun to put more pressure on their party leaders to move forward.
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A bipartisan group in the House called the Problem Solvers recently proposed a $1.5-$2 trillion package that inches closer to what Democratic leaders have asked for — and it's a move that the president appears to support.
As the Washington Post suggests (opens in new tab), this punts the ball back to Pelosi, who has to decide whether to negotiate with the White House for a deal, or hold firm to her long-held demand for a $2.2 trillion deal and hope that the Republicans give in.
The House passed a $3.4 trillion package (the HEROES Act) in May, and Democrats already agreed to give up $1.2 trillion as a concession in intraparty talks over the summer.
So far, it seems as though Pelosi has no plans to budge any further, The Hill reports (opens in new tab).
"When we go into a negotiation it's about the allocation of the resources," she told reporters on Thursday. "But it's hard to see how we can go any lower when you only have greater needs."
What's on the table?
The Senate's latest deal, a $500 billion "skinny" bill that would provide a pared-down federal unemployment-benefit supplement but no stimulus check, failed to advance (opens in new tab) after a procedural vote last week.
The proposal was seen as largely symbolic, and at this point the Senate may simply bow out and send its members home to campaign through Election Day.
On the House side, the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus's bill would send another round of direct payments to eligible Americans, restart federal unemployment-benefit supplements at $450 per week, and provide relief to state and local governments.
Both of the latter two items would be at levels below what the Democrats' HEROES Act includes, but would be far more than what's provided for in the Republicans' competing HEALS Act. That bill was introduced in the Senate at the end of July but no one has acted upon it yet.
The price tag for the Problem Solvers' bill is undetermined because there's no firm end date for its unemployment supplements. Politico reports (opens in new tab) that Pelosi's allies have already dismissed the deal, so it's unclear whether it'll ever come to a vote.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has indicated that the administration would support a $1.5 trillion bill, and President Trump this week encouraged Republicans to go for "higher numbers" — although unsurprisingly, he didn't offer any specifics. From Pelosi's point of view, her steadfast strategy may seem to be working.
"Great," Pelosi said during a telephone call Wednesday with Mnuchin, according to the Post's sources. Referring to Trump, she added, "Call me when he's at $2.2 trillion."