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Second Stimulus Check Update: $2,000 Payments Dying in the Senate

·6 min read

Will your $600 second stimulus check be bumped up to $2,000? Probably not. At least that's how things are looking right now. So far, efforts to increase the checks are being blocked in the Senate, and there isn't much time left before the current Congress adjourns – and all the bills currently in play expire.

As explained below, there's still a slim possibility that the second-round stimulus checks will jump to $2,000. If that happens, you could end up with two payments. The IRS has already started sending out payments for up to $600 per eligible person (plus $600 per eligible child). If a deal to increase payments to $2,000 can be reached, anyone who has already received a $600 second stimulus check will be sent another payment as quickly as possible for the additional amount they're owed.

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Momentum for $2,000 Second Stimulus Checks

For a while, it appeared as if there might be enough momentum behind the $2,000 second stimulus check effort to get it across the finish line. Right after the COVID relief bill authorizing $600 checks was passed by Congress, President Trump reignited the push for $2,000 payments by threatening to withhold his signature if the $600 second stimulus checks weren't increased. Then, after the president signed the bill, the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives passed a separate bill – the CASH Act – that would boost the already-authorized $600 second stimulus checks up to $2,000 per eligible person (it would also increase the additional $600 payment for children 16 years of age or younger to $2,000 and allow these extra payments for all dependents, regardless of their age).

As President Trump continued to push for $2,000 second stimulus checks and concerns over the Georgian runoff elections surfaced, a handful of Republican Senators also climbed on the $2,000 payment bandwagon. By Tuesday, Sens. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Marco Rubio (R-Fl.), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Susan Collins (R-Me.), David Perdue (R-Ga.) and Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) all expressed support for $2,000 checks. (Perdue and Loeffler are involved in the close runoff elections in Georgia that could determine who controls the Senate for the next two years, and both their opponents favor $2,000 payments.) Although these Republican senators didn't directly say they would vote for the CASH Act itself (they simply liked the general idea of $2,000 checks), the idea that the CASH Act could receive the 60 votes it needed to pass in the Senate didn't seem too farfetched by Wednesday morning.

No Vote for the CASH Act in the Senate

Once the CASH Act hit the Senate floor, it quickly became apparent that it was stuck in the mud. Democratic senators have made repeated requests this week for a vote on the bill. Each time, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) or one of his Republican colleagues blocked the request. The CASH Act can't get a vote on the Senate floor without Sen. McConnell's consent, so this particular bill will die in the Senate unless Democrats can change the majority leader's mind and persuade him to allow the bill to move forward. This seems unlikely, though. On Wednesday, Sen. McConnell said the bill "has no realistic path to quickly pass the Senate." That statement, it seems, signals Sen. McConnell's reluctance to reverse course.

For Sen. McConnell and other Republicans opposing the bill, one of the primary reasons given for blocking a vote on the CASH Act is that the bill doesn't target people in need. For example, on Thursday, Sen. McConnell said the bill would "send thousands of dollars to people who don't need the help." He further noted that "a family of five where the parents earn $250,000 and have not seen any income loss this past year" would receive a $5,000 stimulus check under the CASH Act. This, he said, was "socialism for rich people." Sen. McConnell also noted that substantial amounts of targeted pandemic relief was enacted with bipartisan support just a few days before votes for the CASH Act were requested in the Senate.

In response, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), referring to a study by the Tax Policy Center, claimed that less than 1% of the additional money proposed by the CASH Act would go to Americans with income in the top 5%. "Virtually nothing goes to the very, very rich," according to Sen. Sanders. "An overwhelming majority of those funds," he said, "go to the middle class, the working class, [and] low-income people."

McConnell's Alternative Bill

As an alternative to the CASH Act, Sen. McConnell has introduced his own bill to provide $2,000 second stimulus checks. His bill would:

  • Increase the base amount for second stimulus checks to $2,000, but not increase the additional amount for children or allow the additional payments for all dependents;

  • Repeal a law protecting internet companies from liability for posts on their websites; and

  • Set up an advisory committee to study the integrity and administration of the 2020 general election.

President Trump requested these are the three things when he signed the COVID relief bill establishing $600 stimulus checks.

However, this bill has no chance of being enacted into law. Even if the Senate passed the bill, the House would have to pass it as well. But the House has already adjourned for this legislative session. That brings us back to the CASH Act. According to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), "there is one way and only one way to pass $2,000 checks before the end of the year," and that's to pass the CASH Act. To that end, on Thursday, Sen. Schumer proposed holding three separate votes: One on the CASH Act, one on the internet company liability question, and one for the election study. Sen. McConnell rejected that proposal.

Time is Running Out

The current session of Congress ends at noon on January 3. At that point, the CASH Act and McConnell's alternative bill will expire. So, there's some time left for a backroom deal – which means there's still a slim chance that the CASH Act can get a vote. But don't count on it.

If there isn't a CASH Act vote before the session ends, the drive for $2,000 stimulus checks would have to start from scratch – which is likely. Many lawmakers have already called for a third round of stimulus checks in 2021. President-Elect Joe Biden has also said he'll push for more direct payments (although he didn't suggest an amount for each check). So, regardless of what happens in the next few days, we still might see more – and higher – stimulus check payments down the road.

So, stay tuned. We'll report any new developments as they occur. In the meantime, you can find more information about the $600 second stimulus checks already authorized by the COVID relief bill at Your Second Stimulus Check: How Much? When? And Other FAQs.