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Stimulus check 2: Renegade House members vow to stay in DC until bill passes

The U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C.
(Image credit: LLoughran/Shutterstock)

The possibility of stimulus check 2 seems to be getting more remote as lawmakers shift their focus to filling Ruth Bader Ginsburg's Supreme Court seat and the fast-approaching expiration of the federal budget on Sept. 30. 

As late as last week, progress on a second stimulus bill seemed possible, as a bipartisan group of House lawmakers put forward a $1.5-$2 trillion compromise proposal and President Trump expressed support for more spending

But as Bloomberg points out, partisan battles on other issues could push an agreement on stimulus check 2 further away. The continuing stalemate, some economists believe, could hurt the chances of a quick economic recovery. 

Stimulus benefits haven't completely fallen off the radar yet. In a hearing on Tuesday, House Democrats pushed Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on the merits of a second $1,200 payment to eligible Americans. 

Mnuchin expressed support for stimulus check 2 and a bigger overarching stimulus package, though he noted that it's unlikely to happen without the support of Senate Republicans. (Three weeks ago, Mnuchin said the White House could go up to $1.5 trillion on a stimulus package.)

However, White House Economic Advisory Larry Kudlow suggested to reporters that economic recovery doesn't "depend on the package," leaving the Trump administration's true position unclear.

What happens next? 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California), who has stuck to the Democrats' current demand for a $2.2 trillion package since negotiations fizzled out in mid-August, this week suggested that other priorities could help, rather than hinder, stimulus talks, especially in the leadup to the November election. 

Pelosi said that pressure from constituents could be of "such magnitude that the Republicans will finally — finally — address the coronavirus crisis, finally subscribe to a plan to crush the virus," Bloomberg reports.

Other lawmakers are on the same page. A bipartisan group of House members is pressuring leadership to keep all members in Washington until a consensus is reached and another round of relief is passed. (Read their letter here.)

Pelosi has already vowed to keep the House in session until a bill is passed, but she is letting members vote remotely from their home districts.

Where current proposals stand

The Senate recently failed to pass a $500 billion, largely symbolic "skinny" bill, which would have restarted f unemployment benefit supplements at less than  the previous $600 per week per person. It eliminated mention of a second stimulus check for eligible Americans. 

Meanwhile, the bipartisan House Problem Solvers Caucus has pitched legislation that would provide a new round of direct payments as well as some level of federal supplements to unemployment benefits. 

The proposal, which would cost anywhere from $1.5 trillion to $2 trillion depending on how long the extra unemployment payments continue, comes close to bridging the gap between Democrats and the Trump administration. 

In May, the Democratic-controlled House passed its $3.4 trillion HEROES Act, which would send another round of $1,200 checks to those who received them under the $2.2 trillion CARES Act, plus expanded dependent benefits. 

The HEROES Act would also give billions to state and local governments and restart federal unemployment payments at the $600 weekly rate. 

The Senate's Republican leadership ignored the HEROES Act and instead proposed the HEALS Act, which had similar provisions for stimulus check 2 but would cut back unemployment benefits. At $1.1 trillion, the cost of the bill is as high as many senators are willing to go, and it has not been put to a vote.

At the beginning of negotiations with Republicans in July, Pelosi reduced her spending demand to $2.2 trillion hoping the other side could meet her halfway. So far, that hasn't happened.