Trump doubles down on $2,000 second stimulus check demands. Biden bites back. What now?

US leaders from President-elect Joe Biden to Sens. Pat Toomey and Bernie Sanders are taking President Donald Trump to task over his delay in signing a $2.3 trillion joint bill to distribute $900 billion in COVID-19 relief like a second stimulus check and federal unemployment insurance, which lapsed Saturday, as well as fund the government into 2021. Trump objects to the “measly“ $600 payment and wants to pass out a $2,000 second stimulus check instead.

© Provided by CNET Americans’ stimulus package is once again in trouble. Here’s the situation with a second stimulus check. CNET © Sarah Tew/CNET

“What the president is doing now is unbelievably cruel,” Sanders said Sunday on ABC’s This Week. “You can’t diddle around with the bill. Sign the bill, Mr. President, and then immediately — Monday, Tuesday — we can pass a $2,000 direct payment for the working families of this country.

Toomey, a Republican, agreed. “Time is running out. I understand the president would like to send bigger checks to everybody. What I think he ought to do is sign this bill and then make the case. Congress can pass another bill,” he said on Fox News Sunday.

The bipartisan COVID-19 relief aid would renew programs both Democrats and Republicans agree are critical, including the weekly federal unemployment benefits, money to help businesses pay employees, a monthlong extension of a federal eviction ban and funding to help distribute the coronavirus vaccine.

Trump hasn’t said outright if he will veto the bill. If he does, Congress may have a chance to override it. If Trump simply doesn’t sign the legislation, it becomes a pocket veto — there wouldn’t be enough time for it to go into effect before the end of its congressional session in seven days, causing the new, 117th Congress to start from scratch if there’s no legislation by its Jan. 3 swearing-in.

The House of Representatives will vote Monday on a bill (PDF) to authorize the second stimulus check for up to $2,000 per qualified adult, but the legislation isn’t expected to pass the Senate. Dec. 28 is the same day the federal government once again faces a shutdown, unless yet another stopgap bill passes Congress to keep the lights on.

“If the president is serious about the $2,000 direct payments, he must call on House Republicans to end their obstruction,” Pelosi said Thursday. “On Monday, I will bring the House back to session where we will hold a recorded vote on our stand-alone bill to increase economic impact payments to $2,000. … Hopefully by then the president will have already signed the bipartisan and bicameral legislation to keep government open and to deliver coronavirus relief.”

Democrats have long advocated for a larger second stimulus check as part of a larger aid package overall. Trump distanced himself from negotiations, but his 11th-hour insistence may not be able to move the needle on the size and scope of the bill in the coming days.

“This bill is critical. It needs to be signed into law now.” Biden said in a statement on Saturday, going on to refer to Trump’s reticence as an “abdication of responsibility has devastating consequences.” Biden has referred to the stimulus portion of the joint package as a “first step and down payment,” forecasting a larger bill after he’s sworn into office — including a third stimulus check.

Republican and Democratic lawmakers passed the two-in-one omnibus package by overwhelming margins on Dec. 21, after months of painful negotiations.

“I simply want to get our great people $2000 [sic], rather than the measly $600 that is now in the bill. Also, stop the billions of dollars in ‘pork,'” Trump tweeted Saturday morning, referring to elements of the government funding portion of the bill that members of his party agreed to, and which have echoed Trump’s own budget requests.

“I think a lot of people both within the White House and in the Republican Party on Capitol Hill, as well as Democrats, hope that he calms down and simply signs the bill very quietly and doesn’t say anything about it,” Politico chief economic correspondent Ben White told CNBC Friday.

A Republican leader in the Senate, Roy Blunt of Missouri, agreed. “The best way out of this is for the president to sign the bill, and I still hope that’s what he decides,” Blunt said Thursday, according to The Hill.

While we closely follow the situation, read on for more information about the $2,000 stimulus check amount (the figure was advanced by a number of Democrats in mid-2020), the scenarios that could play out next and what we know about a third stimulus check for 2021. This story is updated often with new information.

Second stimulus checks: Everything you need to know
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Trump’s $2,000 stimulus check figure treads familiar terrain

Since spring, several Democrats have suggested a $2,000 stimulus check, including Vice President-elect Sen. Kamala Harris, Sens. Bernie Sanders and Ed Markey and one-time presidential hopeful (and now New York mayoral hopeful) Andrew Yang. Some supporters of this figure have even suggested sending checks on a monthly rather than a one-time basis.

To sign or not to sign? What Trump could do now

There’s a lot of dialog around this right now, but here are some possibilities, simplified:

  • Trump could sign the $900 billion anyway. The stimulus bill and 2021 funding bill are linked.
  • Trump could make good on his threat by actively vetoing the stimulus package.
  • He could passively decline to sign it (aka a pocket veto). If Congress doesn’t deliver the full bill to Trump by the end of the day, they would not be projected to have enough time to overrule the veto. This would take a two-thirds majority vote in both the Senate and House of Representatives, a margin both chambers already cleared, but may not have time to vote on.
  • If the bill fails, the new term of Congress, which begins Jan. 3, would need to start over fresh.

Biden is ready to support a third stimulus check

Most US leaders seem to see the $900 billion stimulus bill as a stepping stone to a larger relief package in 2021, one that may include a third stimulus check and other provisions that Republicans and Democrats agreed to leave out this round in order to pass a critical deal. 

“This bill is just the first step, a down payment, in addressing the crisis — crises, more than one — that we’re in,” Biden said Tuesday, emphasizing that he would like to see a third stimulus check.

If the current stimulus bill becomes law, how quickly could the IRS send your payment?

Aid would likely begin to go out within a week or two after the bill officially passes, with certain funding programs possibly receiving financial help before the end of 2020. On Monday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin gave next week as the target for sending payments via direct deposit to people who qualify for a second stimulus check to receive their payment, intended to bring direct cash flow to tens of millions of Americans. And the $300 unemployment checks are slated to restart as soon as Dec. 26. 

If there’s a delay signing the bill, the timeline could shift, since agencies need time to set up their processes and communicate with recipients about what they need to do or expect.

You can calculate your second stimulus check total now. Here’s which payment group you might be in. Here’s what we know about how quickly we think the IRS could send a second stimulus check, and here are more details about weekly unemployment insurance.

© Provided by CNET A vote on the new stimulus package could come soon. Sarah Tew/CNET

Why didn’t the bill include a $1,200 or $2,000 second stimulus check?

A second stimulus check has had wide bipartisan support ever since the CARES Act passed. Over the last several months, everyone from Trump and Biden to members of Congress, economists and everyday people have advocated for another direct payment.

Trump has previously called for “more money than they’re talking about” in stimulus checks, as large as $1,200 or $2,000 per person. Aides reportedly convinced him at the time that making such demands would jeopardize a stimulus bill, The Washington Post reported, and the White House offer was officially extended at $600 tops.

Although many favor a $1,200 direct payment in theory, a second smaller stimulus check has helped keep costs below the $1 trillion cutoff that Republican lawmakers have in the past said they’d support. 

Stimulus checks aren’t cheap. The IRS said this summer that it had spent $270 billion sending out 160 million checks, and on Monday, Sen. Mitt Romney, a Republican who has been involved in crafting the bipartisan stimulus proposal, forecast a cost of $300 billion if the checks were once again included for $1,200 per person. Republicans reportedly bridled at the cost.

A variety of factors could have contributed to a second stimulus check making its way into the final bill at all, from popular opinion and presidential preference to complicated negotiations that trimmed $160 billion from elsewhere, enough for a smaller stimulus check than before. 

For more information about stimulus checks, here’s how soon you might get your second stimulus check now, what you should do to speed up the delivery of a potential second check and what to know about the HEALS, CARES and Heroes stimulus bill proposals that could help inform a final package.

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