WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) – A few weeks ago, there was renewed optimism Americans would receive a second direct payment of at least $1,200 ahead of Election Day. Obviously, that didn’t happen.
Amid a heated political season and the presidential race, the simplest answer to why you don’t yet have a check is politics.
Most insiders felt a coronavirus relief deal wasn’t possible right before an election where both Republicans and Democrats could claim the payments as a victory — and President Donald Trump’s name would be etched on physical checks.
And those insiders proved to be correct.
At one point, chief negotiators Treasury Secretary Mnuchin and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi seemed fairly close on a compromise. However, things quickly turned south as the pair resorted to publicizing their differences in the press.
Things started to get ugly Thursday morning when Mnuchin woke up and first learned in Politico’s newsletter about a letter he was sent from Pelosi. According to the Washington Post, Pelosi sent the letter to Mnuchin’s office at midnight — just a few hours before making it available to the media.
In that note, Pelosi outlined unresolved issues between the parties that include money for state and local governments, school funding, child care money, tax credits for families, and unemployment insurance aid among other issues.
Hours later, Mnuchin made his response to Pelosi public calling her overnight letter a “political stunt.”
“Your ALL OR NONE approach is hurting hard-working Americans who need help NOW,” Mnuchin wrote at the end of his letter.
This was basically the last we heard from the duo ahead of Tuesday’s election. They had been negotiating back-and-forth for weeks — failing to reach a consensus their respective parties would stand behind.
Both are now hoping for post-election stimulus deals.
At issue is a huge virus relief bill that would send another $1,200 direct payment to most Americans, restart bonus unemployment benefits, fund additional testing and vaccines, provide aid to schools and allocate money to state and local governments, a Democratic priority.
Pelosi says she wants a relief bill that is predicated on steps that science dictates should be taken to deal with the coronavirus, and “if we don’t, we’re just giving money to the president to spend any way he wants and that has not been in furtherance of crushing the virus.”
White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows noted the relief bill being negotiated would cost about $1.9 trillion. Pelosi was hoping for a $2.2 trillion package. Meadows says he has a commitment from McConnell to bring a bill to the floor if and when negotiations with Pelosi conclude successfully.
A $1.8 trillion rescue plan in March passed virtually unanimously. The Pelosi-pushed package today is even larger but has run into resolute opposition from Republicans. Taking care of the issue would clear the decks for a fresh start on the congressional agenda next year.
Senate Democrats blocked a Senate GOP plan that McConnell brought to a vote earlier this month. The measure contained more than $100 billion for schools, a $300 per week supplemental unemployment insurance benefit, and more subsidies for businesses especially hard hit by pandemic-related downturns and closures. It did not include the $1,200 direct payments that are so important to Trump.
Trump says that if he wins reelection, aid will flow immediately. If he loses, it’s unclear whether his enthusiasm for delivering it will be as strong.
“I’m never very optimistic about the lame duck and I’ve never been surprised,” said Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo. “You don’t get near as much done as you think you’re going to get done.”
Those Republicans willing to speculate about a Trump loss say not to expect much, either.
“I think Democrats would want to wait until the new president is sworn in and do it then and I think Republicans probably would say … the economy’s taking care of it,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa.
On Thursday, Pelosi told reporters she hopes to get a deal passed before the end of the year in the event Biden is victorious on Tuesday night. She says the new president would have too much to focus on during the transition process.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.