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Third stimulus check: when could it arrive after Biden becomes President?

Now that Biden has been sworn in as the 46th President he wants to move fast to implement his American Rescue Plan, but there are obstacles in the way.

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Third stimulus check: when could it arrive after Biden becomes President?
ERIN SCOTT REUTERS

President Biden has presented a $1.9 trillion proposal to rescue the US from the covid-19 economic induced crisis, including a third round of direct payments to eligible Americans. But the American Rescue Plan (ARP) is wide ranging with portions drawing opposition from the Republicans and even from one Democratic senator.

The Democrats now control both chambers of Congress but only a slim majority in the House and with the Senate evenly split 50-50 they will need every senator’s vote from their party. Besides the coronavirus relief package that Biden is proposing, the Senate will have to hold hearings for his nominations, consider other measures that his administration has planned in the first 100 days and hold an impeachment trial for his predecessor. Donald Trump was impeached for a second time, a first for any president, days before leaving office.

Why will there be a third stimulus check

One of the most popular measures in Biden’s plan are the direct payments, when passed this will be the third one Americans will receive. The first-round came with the CARES Act in the form of a $1200 payment for eligible adults and $500 for each eligible child. The second passed at the eleventh hour by Congress as part of a $900 billion add-on to the government spending bill. That round sent $600 to every eligible adult and child.

However the second round was seen as too little, too late as the economic recovery begun in the spring was already faltering. Then-President Trump nearly sunk the whole deal when he delayed signing the entire spending package if the stimulus checks weren’t larger, calling for $2000 for adults. Democrats were onboard right away and Republicans who had been opposed came around to the idea as well. Raising the payment became a central part of the Georgia senatorial runoff elections, with Joe Biden promising $2000 stimulus payments if both the Democratic candidates won.

The challenge to pass $1400 stimulus checks

Biden has followed through on his promise calling for a top-up of the $600 payments in the second round with a $1400 direct payment. Fortunately for those in dire need of the payments they have remained popular with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. Unfortunately, not the entire relief package that has been put forth, one of several factors that could slow the checks getting out to suffering Americans.

The question then becomes will Biden’s administration push to get the payments out separately from the rest of his plan or will they go for the whole package. Biden wants to restore unity to a nation deeply fractured, and part of that is to get the GOP on board with his proposal to pass it with bipartisan support. The Democrats could ram the bill through the Senate using “reconciliation” which would require a simple majority to make the bill law, if all 50 Democrats in the Senate vote ‘yes’ to the bill, Kamala Harris would give them the 51st ‘yes’ vote to get them over the finish line.

Not all Democrats are on board

Senator Joe Manchin from West Virginia has expressed skepticism about the new round of stimulus checks. In an interview with the Washington Post he said “I don’t know where in the hell $2,000 came from,” adding “I swear to God I don’t. That’s another $400 billion dollars.” Later he clarified that he isn’t completely opposed to the idea of another round of payments but in his words said “If they can direct money and they say, ‘This will help stimulate the economy,’ hell yeah I’m for it.” But he also stated that the first priority needed to be on getting people vaccinated.

The balance of power in the Senate

Currently Democrats and Republicans are negotiating the power sharing structure of the Senate. The Democrats could just wield the full power of the majority but a desire to lower the tensions between the two parties and with the body evenly split 50-50 both sides are seeking compromise. Those negotiations though rest on them seeing eye-to-eye and finding common ground.

One sticking point is now-Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s insistence that there be protections for the filibuster in any agreement. Progressive members have called for eliminating the filibuster, which is unlikely to happen any time soon. The longer the negotiation drag out on the power sharing deal the longer the delay in getting to other parts of Biden’s plan.

To make a third round of stimulus checks a reality the Democrats could use “reconciliation” which would allow them to pass them with a simple majority. However other parts of Biden’s plan could be susceptible to a filibuster if passed separately from the ARP. Senator Bernie Sanders has called for the whole $1.9 trillion ARP to be passed using “reconciliation” in an op-ed at CNN, a view supported by Elizabeth Warren.

What else could hold up stimulus checks going out?

Just the sheer amount of legislation that Biden wants to get passed will keep the Senate busy throughout the first 100 days and most likely beyond. Biden’s main focus is on tackling the ever-growing pandemic with fears that there will be over 500,000 deaths could be registered by February.

Unity between the two parties would allow legislation to move through committees and to the floor for a vote faster. But with former president Trump’s second impeachment expected to start soon any kumbaya that exists may evaporate and tensions could once again boil over. Not to mention the time the trial will take away from other business, in this case specifically a third round of stimulus checks.