If White House officials and top Democrats are unable to overcome a monthlong impasse and pass a coronavirus stimulus deal, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden could try to move on a $1 trillion aid package in January if he wins the November presidential election.
Some of Biden's economic advisers are growing worried that the nation's economy, ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic, is worsening by the day and have raised concerns about the potential for business bankruptcies, supply chain disruptions, evictions and multibillion-dollar deficits in state and local budgets, according to Axios, which first reported the news.
"We have always contemplated the need for additional stimulus," Jake Sullivan, a senior policy adviser to Biden, told Axios. "We will confront the situation we find in January."
But Mike Gwin, deputy rapid response director for the Biden campaign, told Fox News the campaign is not currently proposing or designing such a package, nor is it eyeing any dollar figure for a January relief package.
"Our focus is on holding Donald Trump accountable for doing his job today," Gwin said. "He should be bringing together the leaders of Congress to pass a comprehensive relief measure right now that will help working families, small businesses, schools, hospitals, and state and local governments. Why is he stalling?"
The former vice president has proposed an ambitious economic stimulus plan that includes tackling climate change; structural racism and major investments in U.S.-based goods. It would inject several trillion dollars into the U.S. economy over the next decade.
But Biden's advisers are wary of being able to pass such a plan within weeks of the inauguration, particularly if Republicans control at least one chamber of Congress. His aides are estimating the stimulus package could cost anywhere between $1 trillion and $2 trillion, depending on what — if anything — Congress passes.
One of the biggest points of contention between the parties is the cost of the proposal. Democrats have offered to come down $1 trillion from the roughly $3 trillion HEROES Act, which the House passed in May. But the White House and Republican leaders want to keep the price tag closer to $1 trillion amid growing concerns over the nation's ballooning deficit.
White House chief of staff Mark Meadows has indicated that President Trump is open to signing a $1.3 trillion aid package. The president has previously endorsed a second round of $1,200 stimulus checks; additional funding for the Paycheck Protection Program; and expanded unemployment benefits.
But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said last week that it's fruitless to revive the negotiations until the GOP agrees to a $2.2 trillion price tag.
"We have said again and again that we are willing to come down, meet them in the middle — that would be $2.2 trillion," Pelosi told reporters. "When they're ready to do that, we'll be ready to discuss and negotiate. I did not get that impression on that call."
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has called the $2 trillion figure a "non-starter," and has urged Democrats to return to the bargaining table and compromise on a $1 trillion package.
Senate Republicans are trying to finalize a smaller aid package, which is expected to include $300 in extra weekly federal unemployment benefits until Dec. 27, another round of money for the Paycheck Protection Program and an additional $10 billion for the U.S. Postal Service and liability protections. The proposal would also allocate additional funding for schools and education.
After Congress allowed sweetened federal unemployment benefits and an eviction moratorium to lapse at the end of July, Trump issued a series of executive actions on Aug. 8 that he said would address the economic fallout from the pandemic.
The measures would postpone the collection of payroll taxes for individuals earning less than $104,000 annually through the remainder of the year; partially restore supplemental unemployment benefits at $400 per week (25% of which would come from cash-strapped state budgets), extend student loan relief and discourage evictions.
Trump has vowed to forgive any taxes that are deferred, but without legislation, those payments will still be required by the delayed due date.