Congress has resumed talks about a new COVID-19 deal but here's why $1,200 stimulus checks probably aren't coming anytime soon

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Jake Lahut,Oma Seddiq
·4 min read
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pelosi mcconnell stimulus checks
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/POOL/AFP via Getty Images
  • Congress has still not reached a new stimulus deal to aid the millions of Americans financially struggling due to the coronavirus pandemic.

  • A bipartisan group of senators unveiled a $908 billion proposal on Tuesday, though it leaves out $1,200 direct payments.

  • Time is running out on Capitol Hill to pass a legislative package as lawmakers face a December 11 deadline to fund the government.

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Millions of Americans are struggling with unemployment, facing food insecurity, and at risk of eviction as coronavirus cases and deaths surge nationwide, but it's unlikely that people will receive another round of direct payments before President-elect Joe Biden takes office in January.

Congressional leaders and the White House have talked on and off since the spring, yet have gotten no closer to passing any coronavirus legislation. A bipartisan group of senators is attempting to end the gridlock and unveiled a new $908 billion proposal on Tuesday, The Washington Post reported.

The funding would go toward schools, state and local governments, small business loans, unemployment insurance, vaccine development, among other issues. However, it excludes $1,200 stimulus checks or direct payments similar to those from the $2.2 trillion CARES Act in March. 

Here's why another round of checks is off the table for now: 

  • With federal funding expiring on December 11, Congressional leaders are focused on averting a government shutdown.

  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin will speak on Tuesday afternoon about federal funding and a relief deal. "We're going to talk about where we are on the appropriations issue and keeping the government running, that is the first priority," Mnuchin told reporters on Capitol Hill. "I'm sure we'll also be mentioning COVID issues."

  • The bipartisan package appears to be a lingering effort toward a middle ground between longstanding Democrat- and Republican-backed proposals, but leaves out direct payments due to potential concerns by more conservative lawmakers about the cost, The Post reported. 

  • "I happen to be a deficit hawk. I don't like borrowing money. I don't like spending money we don't have," GOP Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah said during a news conference announcing the framework. "But the time to borrow money — maybe the only time to borrow money — is when there's a crisis. And this is a crisis. We want to help people at this particular time."

  • Pelosi has been leading a push for a $2.2 trillion deal, which would include direct payments along with aid for state and local governments. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's version is a smaller, targeted bill worth $500 billion. It did not include direct payments or state budget aid, which McConnell and other Republicans have derided as a "blue state bailout."

  • In the Trump White House, the new slimmed-down proposal seemed to be brushed aside Tuesday. "The Trump administration has been in ongoing talks with Leader McConnell and Leader McCarthy about a targeted COVID relief plan," White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said, according to The Post. "The $908 billion proposal has not been a topic of discussion."

  • McConnell said on Tuesday that he's working with the administration on a proposal that "we can say for sure will be signed into law." 

  • The tension around direct payments mainly comes down to Republicans seeking to resume their posture as fiscal conservatives while keeping the economy afloat — paying special attention to the national debt and deficit after they ballooned under President Donald Trump.

  • Biden has called on Congress to pass a deal before he takes office, but Trump's refusal to concede as well as top Republicans neglecting to push back on the president have also stalled deal-making

  • "The full Congress should come together and pass a robust package for relief to address these urgent needs," Biden said on Tuesday.

  • The incoming president's transition team has been considering using executive powers to immediately tackle coronavirus issues, CNN reported on Tuesday. "Any package passed in a lame duck session is likely to be, at best, just a start," Biden said. "My transition team is already working on what I'll put forward in the next Congress to address the multiple crises we are facing, especially our economic and COVID crises."

  • Lawmakers have also been distracted by two Senate runoff races in Georgia on January 5. Both Democrats and Republicans have shifted their energies toward the special election as the seats will determine which party controls the upper chamber next year.

Read the original article on Business Insider