Stimulus check could happen before the election — here's how

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Despite the appearance that House Democrats, Senate Republicans and the Trump administration are moving in different directions regarding a second stimulus package, the key players are still taking steps toward a deal. 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who recently resumed negotiations after a months-long break, on Thursday (Oct. 15) indicated that progress was being made on a coronavirus-relief bill, with a deal floating somewhere between the Democrats' $2.2 trillion revised HEROES Act and the White House's $1.8 trillion counteroffer. 

President Donald J. Trump said Thursday that he's willing to spend even more and called on lawmakers to get the legislation done, going so far as to criticize Mnuchin for the delay. 

"So far, he hasn't come home with the bacon," Trump said earlier this week. 

Most recently, the president has indicated that he will put pressure on reluctant Senate Republicans, who so far have pitched largely symbolic "skinny" proposals, to pass a larger bill if a deal is reached with Democrats. 

Mnuchin told Pelosi on Thursday that Trump would personally lobby Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) to pass a large stimulus bill, Bloomberg reports — which Trump confirmed in Thursday's televised town hall with undecided voters in Miami. 

"If we agree to something, the Republicans will agree to it," Trump told NBC's Savannah Guthrie. 

Will the Senate GOP play along?

Of course, Trump's remarks don't guarantee movement in the Senate, where GOP lawmakers so far have been resistant to spending anywhere close to $2 trillion. 

McConnell and Senate Republicans have been focused on Supreme Court confirmation hearings but are under pressure to do something about stimulus legislation in the run-up to Election Day. 

They are expected to consider another $500 billion package, which would not include stimulus check 2, when the full chamber reconvenes next week. (Senate Democrats will almost certainly block it from advancing.) 

"My members think half a trillion dollars, highly targeted, is the best way to go," McConnell said earlier this week. 

If Democrats and the White House do agree to move forward with the $2.2 trillion HEROES Act, which the House has already passed, then the Senate would still need to pass the bill quickly for Americans to see relief before or even shortly after Nov. 3, less than three weeks away. 

But if a new piece of legislation emerges from the Mnuchin-Pelosi talks, then both chambers would have to hold votes, delaying things even further.

Either way, McConnell and Trump would need to convince at least 13 of the 53 Republican senators to support a bill that most have already strongly opposed. 

It's not clear how many would be willing to change their minds, especially with the news Friday that the federal budget deficit reached $3.1 trillion in the 2020 fiscal year, triple the amount of the 2019 figure.

"Most of the increase in the deficit relative to last year is higher spending as a result of COVID relief," a budget expert told the Washington Post.

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.