President-elect Joe Biden is calling on Congress to pass another coronavirus stimulus package, a measure that would likely include a second round of direct payments.
Biden urged Congress to move ahead with a bill, specifically citing the HEROES Act, a $3 trillion package passed by House Democrats in May. Republicans have balked at that price tag and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has gone even lower, dropping it to $500 billion for a “targeted” measure.
“Right now, Congress should come together and pass a COVID relief package like the HEROES Act that the House passed six months ago,” Biden said. "Once we shut down the virus and deliver economic relief to workers and businesses, then we can start to build back better than before.
“The refusal of Democrats and Republicans to cooperate with one another is not due to some mysterious force beyond our control. It’s a conscious decision. It’s a choice that we make. If we can decide not to cooperate, then we can decide to cooperate,” he added.
Biden’s comments come after a tweet from President Trump calling on Congress to pass a “big and focused” relief measure.
“Congress must now do a Covid Relief Bill. Needs Democrats support. Make it big and focused. Get it done!" the president tweeted Nov. 14.
More: If you didn’t receive your 1st stimulus payment, you’re running out of time to claim it
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin have been negotiating for months on a second coronavirus relief package. In addition to money for small businesses and unemployment benefits, the measure includes another round of direct payments to the public. The payments would likely be the same as included in the first stimulus measure – up to $1,200 for individuals and $2,400 for married couples and $500 per dependent.
Both sides have agreed to include the direct payments in a second stimulus measure but remain far apart on other items, including a national COVID-19 testing and tracing program and money for cities and states.
Is time running out?
The timeline for getting a measure passed before the end of the year is tight. The House returned to work Monday, the first time since Biden won the presidential election. The Senate returned last week but both will be out of town next week for the Thanksgiving holiday, leaving little time to come to a resolution on two major issues: an overall government funding measure and a coronavirus relief bill.
The House will adjourn Dec. 10; the Senate adjourns Dec. 18. President-elect Biden is set to take office Jan. 21, 2021.
If Congress does pass a measure, it’s likely to be distributed much quicker than the funds sent out in March. Mnuchin previously said the IRS would use the information from that round to quickly distribute the second checks, with as many as 50 million payments going out to those who have their direct deposit information on file.