Another Round of Stimulus Negotiations Collapsed. What’s Next?

The U.S. Capitol Building, where stimulus talks are underway

In March when the coronavirus outbreak became a national emergency, Congress acted unusually quickly and decisively. The CARES Act, a broad $2.2 trillion COVID-19 relief bill, was passed and signed within a few days, and millions of Americans got critical relief. Since then, however, news from Washington hasn’t been positive. Here’s what’s new with stimulus talks, and what might be coming next.

The Latest Stimulus News

Congress has been at a virtual standstill since May. That month, House Democrats passed the HEROES Act, an ambitious $3 trillion stimulus bill that was disparaged by critics as too expensive and unfeasible. Senate Republicans refused to seriously consider the bill, but proposed no real alternative for months. This week, GOP senators proposed a “skinny” stimulus bill that failed to pass.

The stimulus package – worth $500 billion – including more small business aid, funding for schools, and unemployment benefits. Notably, it did not include additional stimulus money for citizens. Many Republicans chaffed at the idea of any further spending, so GOP leaders compromised with a pared-down proposal. The bill was never expected to pass, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said publicly that it’s possible nothing is passed before the election.

“The cooperative spirit we had in March and April has dissipated as we’ve moved closer and closer to the election,” he said.

Both this proposal and the HEROES Act were largely political moves, as neither package had a real chance of passing. Despite the ongoing national crisis, lawmakers have been painstakingly slow at working toward meaningful relief. The CARES Act was a historic piece of legislation, but clearly a half measure. Millions of Americans are still struggling to make ends meet, and many are facing joblessness and homelessness. Nevertheless, nothing gets done.

What’s Next

Although the latest attempt at a stimulus bill was unsuccessful, we still may be getting a second relief package. After Congress’ last failed attempt at negotiation, President Trump passed a series of executive orders designed to provide economic relief. The results have been mixed, but it shows that stimulus can happen without congressional approval.

Talks in Congress are ongoing, though. While McConnell was outwardly pessimistic about another stimulus bill, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer seemed confident something would get done. Schumer said he believed there is a “good chance” a bipartisan stimulus bill will pass.

The Bottom Line 

Since speeding a landmark bill into law, lawmakers have made almost no progress toward more stimulus. Despite having arguably the worst coronavirus outbreak in the world, the U.S. government has spent relatively little on relief compared to other nations.

There’s still plenty of reason to expect another stimulus bill to pass, but the timeframe is anyone’s guess. It’s also still possible the next bill includes a second stimulus payment, but we won’t know until the next plan is proposed.