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


Americans’ stimulus package is once again in trouble. Here’s the situation with a second stimulus check.


President Donald Trump on Saturday once again renewed his calls for a $2,000 second stimulus check to replace an up to $600 payment, the same day federal unemployment benefits lapse for tens of millions of Americans. The stimulus payment is part of a $900 billion sum set aside to renew aid that expires by Dec. 31, and is part of a $1.4 trillion joint bill to also fund the government into 2021. While Republican and Democratic lawmakers passed the omnibus package by overwhelming margins earlier this week, Trump’s demand throws the bill, which was painfully negotiated for months, into turmoil.

“I simply want to get our great people $2000, 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.

As it stands now, the calculations built into the $600 ceiling would disqualify many Americans from a second stimulus check.

Trump also tweeted his position on Christmas Day, after golfing with Sen. Lindsey Graham. “Made many calls and had meetings at Trump International in Palm Beach, Florida. Why would politicians not want to give people $2000, rather than only $600? It wasn’t their fault, it was China. Give our people the money!”

The president’s opposition to the amount set aside in the rescue bill for a second stimulus check threatens the viability of a bill that’s long been seen by career lawmakers as a stopgap until another, larger bill is introduced in early 2021. (President-elect Joe Biden has already committed to a third stimulus check.) 

Adding to the confusion, the president hasn’t said outright if he will actively veto the bill. If he does, Congress may have a chance to override it. If Trump simply doesn’t sign the bill as is, it becomes a pocket veto — there would not be enough time for it to go into effect before the end of its Congressional session in eight days, causing the new, 117th Congress to start from scratch if there’s no bill by their Jan. 3 swearing-in.

Democrats have long advocated for a larger second stimulus check as part of a larger aid package overall. Yet Trump’s 11th-hour insistence — he didn’t join in with stimulus negotiations — may not be able to move the needle on the size and scope of the bill.

The House of Representatives will vote Monday on a bill (PDF) to authorize a 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.”

The trouble began Tuesday when Trump derided the second stimulus check’s $600 per person upper cap as “ridiculously low” and asked Congress to amend the bill to an upper limit of $2,000 instead, hinting he wouldn’t sign the stimulus bill into law without Congress meeting his condition.

“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.

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Second stimulus checks: Everything you need to know


That $2,000 stimulus check figure Trump likes isn’t new

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.

Sign or not sign? What Trump could do from here

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 already poised for 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,” President-elect Joe Biden said Tuesday, emphasizing that he would like to see a third stimulus check.

If the current stimulus bill becomes law, how quickly could benefits go out?

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.


A vote on the new stimulus package could come soon.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Why wasn’t a $1,200 or $2,000 second stimulus check part of the initial package?

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.

Last week, Trump 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.

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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