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Stimulus check 2 looks uncertain as 'skinny' relief bill inches closer

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Senate Republicans are more seriously considering the idea of a "skinny" coronavirus-relief package — which would not include any money for stimulus check 2 — with the possibility of a vote when lawmakers return from recess next week. 

The Hill reports that on a Tuesday conference call with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) and other Republicans discussed pushing forward with the pared-down legislation in hopes of providing additional relief to Americans before the November election. 

"McConnell wants it," an unnamed source told The Hill. "McConnell said today ... that every member who's up [for reelection] who has any hint of vulnerability wants a bill that gets 51 votes." 

That would be a clear Senate majority, but it would not be enough votes to stop a filibuster by any single senator determined to stop the bill. Nor would it be likely to pass the House. 

But it would let Senate Republicans tell voters that they did pass something, and would put pressure on Democrats to give up more ground in ongoing second-stimulus-package negotiations.

Republican senators have already floated the idea of a smaller bill but have yet to introduce anything formally. 

Where things stand on second stimulus package

Democratic senators are sticking with the $3 trillion all-encompassing HEROES Act passed by the House in May, which does provide $1,200 in stimulus checks for each qualifying taxpayer. It also provides aid to state and local governments and resumes the weekly $600 federal unemployment assistance payments that ran out at the end of July. 

Senate Republicans introduced their own all-encompassing bill, the HEALS Act, at the end of July. This bill costs $1 billion and also includes the $1,200 stimulus checks, as well as more aid for government agencies and employers, but it cuts federal unemployment assistance to $200 per week.

We do know that the newly proposed $500 billion "skinny" package will not include stimulus check 2, which aides confirmed to The Hill. Instead, it will focus on unemployment benefits, additional funding for the Paycheck Protection Program and support for public (and possibly private) schools and colleges — most of which are also in the HEALS Act. 

Even with a more concrete bill in the works, it's unclear whether the "skinny" proposal has enough support to pass the Senate or to coax Democrats into moving forward. Democrats and White House officials are still in a stalemate over how to proceed with another round of stimulus relief. 

What needs to happen next? 

Lawmakers return from their respective recesses after Labor Day next week, so momentum could pick up soon. However, as Forbes reports, the two chambers are fundamentally at odds over how to approach a second stimulus package even as they take small steps toward agreement. 

Meanwhile, the Trump administration has said it will sign a bill at $1.3 trillion, House Democrats have lowered their top line to $2.2 trillion, and both sides are pushing their leaderships to reach a compromise.