Congress is facing down a midnight deadline to pass a pandemic relief measure as part of a massive government spending bill or rush through another stopgap to keep the government funded through at least the weekend while talks continue.
Several sticking points on the aid package have delayed an agreement. Some senators are objecting to certain provisions in the stimulus measure and may not go along with another funding extension if its needed, Senator John Thune, the chamber’s No. 2 GOP leader, said Thursday.
Current hurdles include a Democratic request for federal funds to match 100% of FEMA payouts for pandemic-related disasters, as well as the Republican demand to end the Federal Reserve’s emergency lending program by the end of the year. Talks are also hung up on aid for entertainment venues and whether the relief bill needs to extend an existing eviction moratorium if it also includes adequate funds to help renters.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer and House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy have been speaking through the week to resolve these final issues.
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Short Shutdown Possible Amid Disputes (2:00 a.m.)
The federal government faces the possibility of a partial weekend shutdown because of disputes over some of the details in a pandemic relief plan, Thune said.
Congress still doesn’t have legislation for the relief plan, which leaders plan to attach to a $1.4 trillion bill that would fund the federal government through the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30. The government is currently operating on stopgap funding that expires Friday. If the House and Senate need more time to process the legislation, another short-term funding bill would be needed.
But Thune, who is the chief GOP vote-counter in the Senate, said some lawmakers, who he didn’t name, may object in order to push their own priorities in the bill. That would leave the government without funding, though the White House budget office has legal discretion to avoid the start of federal worker furloughs if funding is likely to pass in the near future.
“If it’s for a very short amount of time on a weekend, hopefully it’s not going to be something that would be all that harmful,” Thune told reporters. “The preferable route is to keep the government open and get this done and get it done quickly.”
Republican Senator John Cornyn said a shutdown, even if the effects were limited, would be “unnecessary self-inflicted damage.”
“I know people are working to get this thing done and wrapped up as soon as they reasonably can,” Cornyn said. “But adding another element of chaos and challenge doesn’t seem prudent.”
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said leaders will decide by Friday morning whether to bring up a stopgap bill for a vote or if completing the omnibus bill in time for midnight is still possible. — Erik Wasson and Laura Litvan
— With assistance by Erik Wasson, Laura Litvan, Steven T. Dennis, Daniel Flatley, and Jarrell Dillard
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