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Stimulus check 2: Congress 'very close' to making a deal

stimulus check
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Congressional leaders were reported to be "very close" to reaching a deal on a $900 billion stimulus package Wednesday morning (Dec. 16), following a six-hour negotiating session that went until 10 p.m. the previous evening.

The deal would include direct stimulus checks of $600-$700 to each eligible taxpayer, multiple sources said. That's a welcome surprise, because the bipartisan bill the congressional leaders have been using as a starting point does not include a "stimulus check 2."

"It's not a done deal yet. But we are very close," said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York), according to Politico.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), said on the Senate floor that "we made major headway for hammering out a targeted relief package."

"I'm cautiously optimistic we're going to see this $900 billion package released today, and this will likely get passed before we go home this weekend," Sen. Steve Daines (R-Montana) said on CNBC Wednesday morning.

How soon could we get stimulus checks?

The current plan is to attach this stimulus package into the overall 2021 budget package that Congress must vote on by Friday or risk a government shutdown. 

If the plan succeeds, then stimulus checks could start going out in the mail and being deposited into bank accounts the following week, a nice Christmas present for many Americans.

The two Senate leaders and their House counterparts, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-California) — the "Big Four" on Capitol Hill — met behind closed doors from about 4 p.m. until 10 p.m. Tuesday evening (Dec. 15). Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin, representing the White House, dialed into the meeting.

How much would the stimulus checks be?

At between $600 and $700, the amount of the individual stimulus checks would be roughly half that of the $1,200 stimulus checks that went out to every eligible U.S. taxpayer following the passage of the CARES Act in March. 

The reduced amount is part of an effort to keep the overall size of the bill below $1 trillion, the maximum that Senate Republican leaders say their members will vote for.

In order to meet those numbers and still include stimulus checks, the congressional leaders are likely to discard the smaller of two bills that a group of Senate moderates from both parties officially introduced this past Monday (Dec. 14). 

The smaller bill, costing about $160 billion, isolates two polarizing issues that have stalled negotiations for weeks: liability protections for businesses against coronavirus-related lawsuits (Republicans love it; Democrats hate it) and aid to state and local governments to offset lost tax revenue (vice versa).

The larger bill, costing about $750 billion, is made of up things both sides can agree on: a resumption of supplements to state unemployment benefits, aid to small businesses to keep furloughed workers on the payroll, aid to schools, low-income renters and food-stamp recipients, money to help make and distribute coronavirus vaccines, and extensions of moratoriums on evictions and student-loan payments.

The compromise bill currently being negotiated on by the Big Four is said to be based on the larger bipartisan bill. A round of $600-$700 stimulus checks would add about $150 million to the total cost.

Members of Congress of both parties, including Sens. Bernie Sanders (D-Vermont) and Josh Hawley (R-Missouri), had previously said they would not vote for a bill that did not include direct stimulus checks. President Trump said that he wanted "more money" for checks.

Yesterday, a group of left-leaning House Democrats sent an open letter to the Big Four congressional leaders demanding $2,000 stimulus checks, but such an amount is very unlikely to get widespread support.

It's not yet clear whether the deal being worked out by congressional leaders would provide any stimulus payments for dependents of taxpayers. The CARES Act provided $500 for each dependent under the age of 17. 

Paul Wagenseil

Paul Wagenseil is a senior editor at Tom's Guide focused on security and privacy. He has also been a dishwasher, fry cook, long-haul driver, code monkey and video editor. He's been rooting around in the information-security space for more than 15 years at FoxNews.com, SecurityNewsDaily, TechNewsDaily and Tom's Guide, has presented talks at the ShmooCon, DerbyCon and BSides Las Vegas hacker conferences, shown up in random TV news spots and even moderated a panel discussion at the CEDIA home-technology conference. You can follow his rants on Twitter at @snd_wagenseil.