Washington lawmakers say they are still optimistic that a coronavirus stimulus deal can go through.
But if both political parties do not agree on a package before the November election, that could lead to a long wait for Americans who are in need of more financial relief.
House Democrats passed their updated $2.2 trillion HEROES Act bill on Thursday after talks with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin failed to result in a compromise. The bill is not expected to pass the Senate.
Republicans instead are pushing for $1.6 trillion in aid. Though the parties are divided on how much to spend, they do agree on multiple areas where they would provide support, including a second round of $1,200 stimulus checks.
"When you take a step back, the deal seems to be there for the taking if someone wants to take it," said Ed Mills, Washington policy analyst at Raymond James.
On Friday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said the House could pass a standalone bill to send the struggling airline industry more money. She also said she is confident more stimulus aid can get done.
"We'll find our middle ground," Pelosi said. "We're legislators. We'll get the job done."
The stakes of the conversations are high. If Republicans and Democrats are unable to strike a deal now, it could be a long wait before more aid is finalized.
Legislators are poised to go home to their districts in coming days. However, the office of House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said that House lawmakers could still be called back to vote. The Senate is also due to take up confirmation hearings for Supreme Court justice nominee Amy Coney Barrett in the next few weeks.
If current efforts are not successful, negotiations could get pushed until after the election in a lame duck bill, Mills said. There is also the possibility that lawmakers would hold off until after the inauguration.
At that point, something might not come together until February or March – one full year from when the CARES Act was passed, Mills noted.
The outcome of the November election could be a key influence on the fate of more aid.
"The view I have is the Trump re-election gets the money the fastest, and a Democratic sweep is the outcome that provides the most amount of funding," Mills said.
One of the sticking points in the negotiations is how much direct money to provide to Americans.
Both parties want to send another round of $1,200 stimulus checks. Democrats want to make everyone with a taxpayer identification number eligible, rather than the Social Security number requirement included with the first checks. That could help those who were left out of those payments. Republicans are balking, Mills said.
"This injects immigration politics into the debate," Mills said.
Democrats have also proposed $600 per week in enhanced federal unemployment benefits through January.
Republicans, meanwhile, have advocated for reduced enhanced payments that would stop on Jan. 1.
There are also other needed forms of aid in the package, Mills said, including money to help schools safely reopen, to develop and distribute a vaccine, and to support doctors and hospitals.
Some Washington insiders have been baffled by the lack of pressure the public has put on individual members of Congress to get something done, Mills said.
"What has been told to me is that they have not had that phone call, email or letter writing that they would have expected," Mills said.
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