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Stimulus check 2: Biden pushing for bigger bill now

Former Vice President Joe Biden kicks off his 2020 presidential campaign in Philadelphia, May 18, 2019.
(Image credit: Matt Smith Photographer/Shutterstock)

President-elect Joe Biden is calling on Congress to pass a second relief package ahead of Inauguration Day — a step that would require lawmakers to agree on a bill that the Trump administration would also be willing to accept. 

As Politico reports, Biden has publicly  been supportive of Democrats' approximately $2 trillion spending proposal, which in previous iterations included stimulus check 2. Other priorities include ongoing federal unemployment benefits, an extension of the Paycheck Protection Program, and aid to state and local governments. 

"They're in lockstep agreement that there needs to be emergency assistance and aid during the lame-duck session to help families, to help small businesses," Biden transition advisor Jen Psaki said of the president-elect and Democratic congressional leaders on Friday. 

However, the New York Times reports that Biden, with feedback from advisors, may be willing to break with the Democrats' higher price tag if it means a deal with Senate Republicans can be reached more quickly. Another Biden spokesperson quickly denied that report.

In negotiations prior to Election Day, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had moved closer to consensus on a nearly $2 trillion aid package — not far from the Democrats' revised HEROES Act that passed the House in October. 

However, Senate Republicans repeatedly rejected that level of spending, instead putting together (and failing to pass) two largely symbolic $500 billion "skinny" bills that did not include a second round of stimulus checks. 

Biden's team is also reportedly considering other ways to extend relief once he takes office in January, including by issuing executive orders on evictions, foreclosures and student loans. 

Prominent Democrats close to Biden admitted it was unusual for a president-elect to try to influence legislation before taking office, but that the need for another stimulus package was urgent.

"We may have to give something up to McConnell that we really don't want to give up to get it, but we simply have to do this," said one unnamed Democrat to Politico, referring to extended unemployment benefits and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky).

Former Chicago mayor and White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel said that a successful lame-duck stimulus bill would also free up Biden's agenda after Inauguration Day.

"One less thing to worry about is one less thing to worry about," Emanuel told Politico.

More pandemic aid set to expire

The sense of urgency is increasing for many Americans, as existing pandemic aid is set to expire at the end of 2020. As Bloomberg reports via the Washington Post, more than 9 million could lose federal unemployment insurance offered under a program for self-employed and gig workers. 

The 13-week extension of unemployment aid — generally limited to 26 weeks — will also end on Dec. 31, leaving more than 4 million people without benefits.

Pandemic-specific programs for mortgage forbearance, eviction moratoriums and student loan freezes are winding down as well. 

In a letter sent to Congress last week, a number of former high-ranking officials and economic advisors who served under both Democratic and Republican presidents urged lawmakers to act sooner rather than later. 

The bipartisan group, which includes former Treasury Secretaries Timothy Geithner, Henry Paulson, Robert Rubin and Larry Summers, endorsed enhanced unemployment benefits and aid to small businesses, among other provisions. 

"Our nation's leaders should act on another round of fiscal relief now," they wrote. "Our country and economy cannot wait until 2021."