When Congress is likely to make a deal to send more stimulus checks

October 28, 2020, 3:47 PM UTC

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Weeks of daily negotiations between the White House and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi almost assuredly won’t result in a stimulus deal before the election, as the Senate adjourned until after the election, likely killing any near-term hope of a deal.

Though a bill won’t come in time for Nov. 3, White House spokeswoman Alyssa Farah said on “Fox & Friends” on Tuesday, “We’re confident that we can get something in the coming weeks…We’re hoping within weeks. I don’t want to get too ahead of any announcements.”

Some economists and analysts, however, expect a deal may not come until early next year. Deutsche Bank economist Brett Ryan estimates a stimulus package may arrive as late as February, in which case aid likely wouldn’t be distributed until early March. If the package includes another round of $1,200 stimulus checks, it would likely take two weeks after passage to hit American’s bank accounts.

There is a chance economic aid could be passed right after the election, however, in a so-called lame-duck session following the election, the time following a November election but before a new Congress convenes. In that case, UBS Global Wealth Management senior economist Brian Rose argues the “most straightforward” scenario to pass a bill before next year would be Trump winning reelection and passing a bill during the lame-duck session. However, Rose believes the bill might be a smaller or piecemeal package (a prospect House Speaker Pelosi has long opposed) that could be passed by Dec. 11, when Congress’s previous continuing resolution is set to end. But even if there is a “blue wave,” Rose suggests, a speedy piecemeal deal might be more in reach than it was before the election: “If Biden wins, and the Republicans in the Senate are still willing to do a piecemeal deal…assuming it’s a blue wave [and Democrats are poised to take control of the Senate as well], Pelosi may be more willing to do piecemeal too, knowing that, ‘Okay, the [new] Congress will sit, we’re going to control Congress and the presidency,’” Rose tells Fortune.

If Democrats take both the Senate and the presidency (in which case there might be a bigger deal), Rose argues, “I can’t imagine the Democrats sweep and they let the Republicans just block everything with the filibuster” early next year.

Democrats and Republicans have argued over points including how much funding should go to state and local governments, and liability protection. But they share common ground on another round of $1,200 stimulus checks, funding for education, food programs, and other areas of funding. Both groups also support more enhanced unemployment benefits, though the White House has favored $400 per week versus the $600 per week House Democrats support.

The overall size of the deal, however, also remains a formidable roadblock: Democrats want at least $2.2 trillion in aid, while Senate Republicans rallied around a much skinnier $500 billion package in a bill blocked by Democrats last week.

Beyond the politics, the larger question is whether the economy can wait until next spring. When states begun to ease lockdowns in May the economy began a robust recovery. By August, however, that rebound was losing speed as aid from the CARES Act ran dry. And if that rate of rehiring continues to fall, the recovery could be at risk.

To make matters worse, with the moratorium on evictions expiring later this year, “you can see that if we don’t get the package this year and we have to wait until next year, there’s a lot of big problems around people being unable to pay their bills and losing their housing,” Rose says. “That is the worrying part of waiting.”

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