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Stimulus check 2 may be back on — White House floats $1.5 billion package

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After weeks of stalemate between Democrats and Trump administration officials trying to put together the next stimulus package, further negotiations that could result in stimulus check 2 may be on the horizon. 

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who along with Chief of Staff Mark Meadows has represented the White House in talks, said Tuesday (Sept. 1) that he would be ready to meet with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) and even suggested a willingness to inch closer to the Democrats' current $2.2 trillion proposal. 

In a hearing held by the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis , Mnuchin floated an increase in stimulus-bill spending to $1.5 trillion, according to the Wall Street Journal

He also acknowledged that all sides currently agree on the need for additional federal unemployment benefits and stimulus check 2. He and Pelosi spoke on the phone following the hearing. 

The White House "conceded...in an effort to get a deal done," Mnuchin said. "Whether it's one trillion or one-and-a-half trillion, again, let's not get caught on a number."

CNN reports that Pelosi was not as hopeful after the call, however. 

"Sadly, this phone call made clear that Democrats and the White House continue to have serious differences understanding the gravity of the situation that America's working families are facing," she said. 

The last contact between Democrats and the White House was last week, when Pelosi and Meadows spoke by phone. No progress was made after that call.

Where do lawmakers stand on stimulus check 2? 

Both the House and the Senate have put together formal proposals for additional stimulus relief, each of which includes another round of direct payments. 

The House passed the $3 trillion HEROES Act in May, which would send $1,200 checks plus expanded dependent benefits to individuals and families who were eligible for assistance under the CARES Act that became law in March. 

The Senate's Republican leadership has proposed its own $1 trillion stimulus package called the HEALS Act, which would provide similar direct payments but less in federal unemployment assistance. 

But the Senate has not held a vote on that package, and it's not clear it would pass as some GOP budget-conscious senators reportedly think it's too expensive. Legislation generally needs 60 out of 100 votes to pass the Senate.

During the latest round of talks in mid-August, Pelosi indicated that she would be willing to cut the package down to $2.2 trillion, while the White House said its top line was $1.2 trillion. Earlier this week, the White House bumped that up to $1.3 trillion. So Mnuchin's figure of $1.5 trillion may be a significant breakthrough. 

Skinny appeal

Meanwhile, groups in both chambers have floated "skinny" bills that would cost less and offer fewer benefits. Neither proposal would provide stimulus check 2, which, paradoxically, both sides agree is a priority. 

Pelosi and her Senate compatriot, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York), are holding out for an all-encompassing bill that resembles the HEROES Act. Neither has endorsed the House skinny bill. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had stuck to his guns on the HEALS Act, but on Tuesday seemed to suddenly endorse the Senate skinny bill during a Tuesday conference call with Mnuchin, Meadows and other Senate Republicans. 

Both skinny bills seem largely symbolic, perhaps meant more to win votes in the November general election than to provide meaningful relief to Americans.