Election Day is a mere four days away, and the good people in Washington have failed to pass a stimulus bill for coronavirus relief. In fact, they can’t even agree on what a stimulus package might include. With no hope for a pre-election deal, here’s the latest update on how things might play out after November 3.
What’s the soonest I could receive a stimulus check or unemployment?
Confident that former Vice President Joe Biden will win the election, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said yesterday that she is committed to passing a stimulus package during the lame duck session, which is after the election but before the new Congress begins. Her ability to do so depends on the outcome of the election—and the extent to which President Trump cooperates. We see three likely outcomes:
- If Democrats sweep: An enormous stimulus bill would likely pass in late January, just following Inauguration Day (January 20). If Democrats know they can provide the large-scale aid bill they want in January, it would make little sense for them to compromise heavily in November or December to push a bill through the Republican-controlled Senate.
- If Republicans keep control of the Senate: Majority Leader Mitch McConnell holds the power here. Both sides would be under extreme public pressure to pass a stimulus bill during the lame duck period, which may or may not happen. If McConnell seems to be marshaling his troops soon after the election, then it will happen. If not, then negotiations will continue into the new administration. (McConnell, for his part, said in an interview on Friday that he expects a package “right at the beginning of the year,” CNBC reported.)
- It’s mid-November, and no stimulus bill has appeared: Given that all sides generally agree on another round of stimulus checks and extended federal unemployment benefits, it would not be surprising if checks and unemployment (or both), or other aid measures, were tucked into the upcoming funding bill that will prevent government shutdown on December 11.
- Trump loses the White House: The wild card here is President Trump, who this week promised “the best stimulus bill you’ve ever seen” post-election. Would he keep that promise after losing an election? We’ll leave you to speculate on his sign-vs.-veto behavior following a massive narcissistic injury as crucial economic relief for millions of Americans hangs in the balance.
Why the hell didn’t Congress pass a bill before Election Day?
McConnell’s wish that the White House not actually agree to terms of the stimulus package before Election Day seems to have been honored. On Thursday, Pelosi sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin—and the media—claiming that Mnuchin had not responded to compromise language on a number of topics relating to COVID-19 response and health insurance coverage, and indicating continued disagreements on a half dozen separate funding topics. Mnuchin was miffed to read the letter in the media, and turned the blame right back at her and her “all or none” approach.
This post has been updated.