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Stimulus negotiations drag as hope fades for pre-election deal on 2nd checks, unemployment

A deal for the long-awaited COVID stimulus package could still happen before Election Day, but that’s looking less likely.

Stimulus negotiations drag as hope fades for pre-election deal on 2nd checks, unemployment
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) speaks during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol on October 22, 2020 in Washington, D.C. Speaker Pelosi spoke about the latest coronavirus stimulus bill that did not pass in the Senate on October 21. [Photo: Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images]
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Democrats and the White House are reportedly tantalizingly close to reaching a deal on a long-awaited stimulus bill. Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, said he expected a draft bill by Friday, and 72% of Americans, including half of Republicans, support a $2 trillion aid package. Here’s the latest update on coronavirus relief as we head into the weekend:

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Will this bill pass?

No one knows. Even party leadership doesn’t know.

How can they not know?

Well, since Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has chosen not to participate in negotiations, it’s hard to predict how Senate Republicans will respond to a bill. Negotiations are between the White House and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, which is weird.

Where do things stand?

Pelosi and Steve Mnuchin’s never-ending negotiations are reportedly homing in on a bill in the $2 trillion range that includes stimulus checks and extended unemployment. President Trump is on board. This week, McConnell spiced things up by asking the White House to not actually come to a deal before Election Day.

Level with me. What’s really happening here?

We are now two weeks from an election, which means much of the enthusiasm and jostling for a stimulus bill is about optics. (Recall that the stimulus package was pronounced dead two weeks ago, and now suddenly it’s bustling again.) Both Democrats and Republicans—particularly those up for re-election—want to appear to be doggedly working toward delivering aid checks to their electorate. None wants to be seen blocking a bill.

So why on earth would they not want to pass a damn bill?

Politics is all about risk aversion, and passing a bill days before an election is risky. President Trump would, of course, take credit (bad for Democrats), Nancy Pelosi would also take credit (bad for Republicans), and conservative voters might blanche at a giant government aid package (bad for Republicans). Maybe. Something like that. See, risk.

So what’s going to happen?

We’re back to no one knows. But note that it is in the shared best interests of all but the most right-leaning members of Congress to just keep avidly negotiating.

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What needs to happen for me to get stimulus money soon?

Fairy dust and luck. Though if Democrats flip the Senate on November 3, expect a huge stimulus package to pass shortly after. Otherwise, it’s anyone’s guess.