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Stimulus check 2 is still possible before the election — here's why

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., September 2015.
(Image credit: Albert H. Teich/Shutterstock)

President Trump’s zig-zagging stance on a second stimulus package has Republican lawmakers pushing back against his sudden termination of talks with calls for action, leaving open the possibility that stimulus check 2 could still happen in the coming weeks or months. 

Trump tweeted on Tuesday that he planned to withdraw the White House from negotiations with Democrats, led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California), just days after Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had resumed talks. 

But later the same day, he pledged to sign a standalone bill that would provide a second round of $1,200 stimulus checks and nothing else, saying that the money would go out "immediately." 

On Wednesday, the administration changed course yet again. White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said that the administration was considering separate bills for stimulus checks, airline relief and small business funding, Politico reports — measures that had been combined as part of a larger package passed by the House last week. 

Some members of both the House and Senate GOP reacted to the whiplash with frustration and calls for negotiations to move forward. 

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), who is in a tight reelection race, called on lawmakers and the Trump administration to pick up the bipartisan $1.5 trillion Problem Solvers bill introduced in the House last month. The proposal includes stimulus check 2 as well as a weekly federal unemployment supplement that would be smaller than in the Democrats' proposal. 

Meanwhile, The Hill reports that House Republicans are also antsy for talks to resume, with several lawmakers saying they disagree with how Trump has handled stimulus relief. 

"With lives at stake, we cannot afford to stop negotiations on a relief package," said Rep. John Katko (R-New York). 

What’s on the table? 

The House’s most recent proposal — a scaled-down HEROES Act that still costs $2.2 trillion — was passed by the chamber last week. It  includes a second $1,200 direct payment and a resumption of $600 weekly federal unemployment-benefit supplements backdated to Sept. 6 and continuing through Jan. 31. 

The Democrat-backed bill also includes nearly $500 billion for cash-strapped state and local governments, a provision that many Republicans oppose, plus a bailout of the struggling airline industry, which Republicans like better.

Before Trump’s call to end negotiations, the administration had come back with a $1.6 trillion proposal, which included stimulus check 2 in a "similar" amount as well as a slightly reduced (and retroactive) unemployment supplement. It's not clear if that White House proposal would win the Senate Republican support even with Trump's backing.

A number of other proposals have been put forward in recent months, but none have passed in either chamber, not even the $1.1 trillion HEALS Act that Senate GOP leaders put forward in late July. 

Last month, the Senate managed to get a majority of Republican senators behind a $500 billion "skinny" bill that would not have included stimulus check 2, but without any Democratic support, it failed to advance.