- Congress is gearing up to hold Sunday votes on a $900 billion relief package with a very narrow margin for error, and several policy disagreements remain.
- Both chambers must approve the emergency rescue legislation along with a broader government funding bill by midnight or seek a stopgap spending measure to avert a government shutdown.
- "This gets done today. No more delays," a senior Republican senator told Fox News.
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Lawmakers are setting the stage to hold back-to-back votes Sunday on a $900 billion federal rescue package. But both parties still haven't brokered a broader deal and several policy obstacles remain, which could still push final passage into Christmas week.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters on Capitol Hill on Sunday that "I think we're close, we're very close" on reaching an agreement.
"But we want to have members have enough time to review it all," she said. Asked about the timing of a vote on a rescue package, Pelosi responded: "When we're ready."
Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, Democrat of Maryland, told rank-and-file lawmakers to stand by on Sunday for House votes on "government funding and further coronavirus relief legislation."
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Senior Republicans also indicated they were gearing up to pass a relief package. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on a Senate floor speech that "I hope and expect we can have a final agreement nailed down in a matter of hours."
"This gets done today. No more delays," Sen. John Barrasso, a member of GOP Senate leadership, told Fox News on Sunday morning. However, other Republicans were skeptical of the Senate voting on Sunday. Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, another member of Republican leadership, said he believed it was "doubtful."
Congress approved a two-day funding extension on Friday to avert a government shutdown and buy more time for the negotiations. It sets up an extremely small margin of error for lawmakers, given they're also attempting to pass a $1.4 trillion spending package to fund federal agencies into next year.
Congressional leaders want to combine both, meaning lawmakers in both chambers could have only hours to review broad tax-and-spending legislation surpassing $2 trillion before government funding runs dry at midnight. Congress could also approve a stopgap spending bill to extend funding for a short period of time.
The prospects of a weekend deal increased after Republicans and Democrats removed a major hurdle to a broad agreement and compromised on the Federal Reserve's lending authority late Saturday.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer tweeted on Sunday that "resolving this issue successfully now allows us to move onto passing aid for Americans, extend unemployment insurance, deliver survival checks, and more."
However, The Washington Post reported that several issues remained outstanding, such as an eviction moratorium.
The $900 billion rescue package is expected to include $300 federal unemployment benefits through early spring, $600 stimulus checks for Americans, and small business aid. But no legislative text has been unveiled so far. And there's been no announcement of a stimulus deal, which has slipped away from both parties since the summer.
Sen. Patrick Toomey, Republican of Pennsylvania, made a late push to include the measure in the final relief legislation. He sought to end several emergency lending programs which expire December 31, their current end date under an economic aid package passed in March. The central bank initiated them to assist states and municipalities as well as mid-sized businesses.
Toomey, the incoming chair of the Senate Banking Committee, also wanted to restrain the Fed's ability to start up similar rescue programs in future downturns. It caused a fierce clash between Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill in the past few days, which threatened to push negotiations well into next week.
Republicans argued the programs had served their purpose, but Democrats assailed the move as one designed to restrict the incoming Biden administration's toolkit for the economy. The compromise would end the emergency lending programs, but initiating similar ones would require approval from Congress.
Toomey told reporters on Sunday he would support the final relief agreement. President Donald Trump made a last-minute demand to include larger stimulus checks on Saturday evening, but it was unclear whether that would scramble the timeline for passage. Negotiators are laboring to keep the overall price tag of the relief legislation under $1 trillion.
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