Is there a fourth stimulus check in our future? Can we see more direct incentive payments after that? While the odds are certainly against it, Democratic lawmakers in Congress continue to ask President Biden to include additional stimulus checks in his Build Back Better plan.
As late as May 17, six Democratic members of the influential House Ways and Means Committee sent a letter to Biden urging him to prioritize “recurring direct payments related to economic conditions.” That letter brings the number of Democratic lawmakers who have signed letters to the president asking for regular stimulus measures until the economy recovers to 80. And because there are still people on Capitol Hill pushing for more direct payments, the idea of a fourth stimulus check (and possibly more) isn’t dead yet.
The legislators’ arguments for additional stimulus controls are fairly consistent. For example, they all say that direct payments are needed to lift millions of ordinary Americans out of poverty. But they also argue that stimulus measures are an effective form of economic relief because they increase spending at all income levels. Regarding the need for regular stimulus measures until the pandemic is completely behind us, they say Americans “deserve to know they can put food on the table and have a roof over their heads” and “shouldn’t be at the mercy of constantly shifting legislative timelines and ad hoc solutions.”
Not surprisingly, the idea of more stimulus checks is also popular with the general public. A Data for Progress poll, often quoted by Democrats who support recurring payments, found that 65% of voters — including 54% of Republicans — support a $2,000 monthly payment for every American until the pandemic is over. There is also an online petition on Change.org calling for $2,000 monthly checks, signed by more than 2.2 million Americans as of May 23. Also, according to a poll by the POLITICO-Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, most American adults do not believe that the US bailout plan, which allowed for the third round of stimulus checks and other benefits, will help them much. Those feelings help increase public support for additional incentive payments.
But there are still tough questions to be answered before legislation is passed allowing more direct payments. Until now there has been little discussion about how big a fourth stimulus check should be or how many people would get each month if recurring payments were made. Democratic lawmakers also did not say who would qualify for additional stimulus payments. Before the $1,400 stimulus checks were approved in the third round, there was a controversial debate about how “targeted” the direct payments should be. Even some Democrats, such as Senator Joe Manchin (DW.Va.), fought to limit payments to only the most needy. As a result, a more aggressive “phasing out rate” was adopted for third-round stimulus checks.
Republican opposition to additional stimulus checks
Don’t expect Republicans to back another round of stimulus checks. Senate Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) says he doesn’t think a fourth round of direct payments is needed. The economy is starting to recover and jobs are coming back. Republicans say they don’t want to slow the economic recovery with additional federal debt and increased government spending that could spark a sharp rise in inflation. The Boston Herald also reported that more than 1.2 million first-round incentive checks were declined, refunded or not cashed. Expect Republicans to use that information to support their argument that another round of stimulus payments isn’t necessary if that many payments weren’t even used (although the IRS issued a total of more than 160 million first-round stimulus checks).
If a fourth round of stimulus checks is allowed, it will likely happen in the same way that the third round of payments were made — without any Republican votes. While some Republican lawmakers have supported stimulus in the past, they seem united against the kinds of big and expensive plans that a proposed stimulus would likely be a part of, such as the president’s American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan. That means Democrats will likely have to use the reconciliation process again if they want more stimulus payments. (Reconciliation is a procedural tool for passing a bill in the Senate by a simple majority vote rather than the usual 60 votes needed to avoid a filibuster.)
Does Biden Want a Fourth Stimulus Check?
President Biden has somehow not said whether he supports a fourth stimulus check or recurring stimulus payments. However, earlier this month, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki was asked if there would be another round of stimulus checks in future legislation. Her response: “We’ll see what members of Congress propose, but they won’t come for free.” While that comment indicates a degree of openness to the idea, acknowledging that stimulus checks may be too expensive, certainly doesn’t offer much comfort to supporters of extra payments.
The president’s actions also do not seem to indicate strong support for more stimulus controls. Since the US bailout went into effect, Biden has released two major economic plans — the US Jobs Plan and the US Family Plan — and neither has included another round of stimulus measures. Instead, those plans focus on job creation, infrastructure rebuilding, and tax breaks for ordinary American families. That doesn’t mean President Biden would oppose another round of stimulus checks if it were included in a bill that came to his desk, but a proposal for more direct payments would likely have been in one of his latest plans if he really wanted a fourth. stimulus control.
How likely is a fourth stimulus check?
While hopes for a fourth stimulus check are technically very much alive, the likelihood of another round of stimulus payments is slim. Recurring payments linked to economic conditions are even more unlikely. Yes, there is some support in Congress for additional direct payments. But it’s important to note that not all Democrats can be counted on to back another expensive round of stimulus checks. For example, no one on Capitol Hill would be particularly surprised if Senator Manchin objected to more stimulus payments.
And while President Biden hasn’t said “no” to more stimulus, he seems far more interested in expanding the temporary improvements to the child tax credit, childcare allowance and income tax credit that were part of the US Rescue Plan. With the economy improving and Republicans pushing to keep the costs of future legislation down, the president just doesn’t seem to want to spend political capital on stimulus.
Of course, the president’s plans are just a starting point for further legislation. Once the bill creation and voting process gets underway, new proposals will be added and certain items from Biden’s wish list will be removed. That’s exactly how sausage making works. So anything is possible… but that doesn’t make a fourth stimulus check or recurring payments likely.