coronavirus stimulus checks

What have Republicans said about a second stimulus check?

The GOP's Senate majority has blocked the HEROES Act, but with only weeks of his presidency remaining will Trump persuade McConnell to strike a deal?

What have Republicans said about a second stimulus check?
JONATHAN ERNST REUTERS

For much of the last six months, lawmakers in the Capitol have attempted to find agreement on the second large-scale stimulus package to help Americans survive the economic fallout of the pandemic. But after an initial swell of bipartisan sentiment to pass the CARES Act back in March, the two parties have remained far apart since then.

The Democrats in the House passed the HEROES Act in May, which would have provided another round of stimulus checks, but it was dismissed in the Senate. Another, slightly watered-down version failed to pass the Senate months later. It looks like a compromise will have to be reached before President-elect Joe Biden can sign another financial relief package into law, but what are the Republicans asking for as it stands?

Mitch McConnell calls for a ‘skinny’ bill

The Republican-held Senate is led by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has proved to be one of the most staunch opponents to the HEROES Act. The $2.2 trillion package is seen by McConnell as too far-reaching and he has tabled his own bill, which does not include another round of stimulus checks.

McConnell’s ‘skinny’ bill is a $500 billion package that includes support for small businesses and an extension of unemployment benefits but offers no further direct relief. Earlier this month, McConnell told reporters that he does not want another bill the size of the CARES Act: "I don't think the current situation demands a multitrillion-dollar package. So I think it should be highly targeted”

That does not sound very promising for Americans hoping for another round of stimulus checks, but McConnell has at least pledged to focus on the new package as a top priority. Upon retaining his seat in the Senate for Kentucky, McConnell was optimistic about the chances of another coronavirus relief bill before 2021: “I think we need to do it and I think we need to do it before the end of the year.”

Growing concerns amongst Republican Senators

McConnell has made clear that he is unwilling to pass the HEROES Act, but some from within his party have called for a broader package than the ‘skinny’ bill that he has proposed. Congress returned on Monday for a final sitting before the end of the year, crucial because the CARES Act’s unemployment benefits officially end on 26 December.

Republican Senator for Missouri Roy Blunt shares McConnell’s enthusiasm to get a deal done, saying "We need to do this now," when asked about the prospect of another financial package before the New Year. While McConnell was unwilling to support a second wave of stimulus checks, Blunt called for Americans to be given another round of direct payments. He said:

“We need to stabilize, though, through that -- the payroll protection effort that worked so well. Direct money to struggling families would be helpful and some of extension of unemployment."

Could President Trump hold the key for a second round of stimulus checks?

Although plans are well underway for the Biden administration, Donald Trump is the man in the White House at the moment and as such he will be central to any hopes of a new deal. He may be able to leverage his enduring sway over his supporters to push through a more generous package than McConnell is aiming for. However, it would require a deal of focus and patience that Trump has not yet shown in negotiations.

In September and October he seemed eager to strike a deal but he suddenly instructed his negotiator, Steven Mnuchin, to focus instead on the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. Trump then swayed again, asking for the talks to resume and proposing increasingly generous packages, even offering to exceed the Democrat’s $2.2 trillion HEROES Act.

Trump was so eager to see another round of stimulus checks passed before the election he offered to sign a stand-alone bill “IMMEDIATELY”. However the President has barely said anything about the covid-19 response since the election so it remains to be seen if he is still bothered about securing another round of stimulus checks.