Partial government shutdown could happen this weekend, top GOP senator warns

Stimulus will probably include $600 per person, unemployment boosts: Rep. Brad Wenstrup

Rep. Brad Wenstrup, R-Ohio, discusses what the stimulus package will most likely include and making vaccinations mandatory.

A top Republican senator warned the government could briefly shut down over the weekend as top congressional leaders from both parties race to finalize a $900 billion coronavirus relief deal that will be married to the massive omnibus spending measure.

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Government funding is set to expire Friday at midnight, giving Congress limited time to overcome lingering disputes on a $900 billion relief bill and pass a spending measure needed to avert a partial shutdown.

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With negotiations threatening to spill over into the weekend, lawmakers have suggested they may need to pass a second continuing resolution to extend government funding by a week or so and buy themselves more time.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the Senate floor Friday that he was "even more optimistic" about the prospects for a bipartisan, bicameral COVID-19 bill but said they will "probably" need a continuing resolution to avoid a lapse in government funding.

But Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., indicated that some senators may not support another funding extension if leaders don't strike a deal on another round of emergency aid by Friday.

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“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 said Thursday. “The preferable route is to keep the government open and get this done and get it done quickly.”

Congress has already passed two continuing resolutions this year: one to fund the government between Oct. 1 and Dec. 11, and the second to extend that funding until Dec. 18 in order to give lawmakers more time to negotiate a stimulus bill.

Although congressional leaders are inching closer toward an agreement after months of stalemate, there remain some outstanding issues, such as how to structure a second stimulus check and whether to install controls on the powers of the Federal Reserve. There are also disagreements over whether Federal Emergency Management Agency funds can be used for state and local government assistance, which was a top priority for Democrats.

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"We're going to stay right here until we are finished, even if that means working through the weekend, which is highly likely," McConnell said Thursday. "And if we need to further extend the Friday funding deadline before final legislation can pass in both chambers, I hope we will extend it for a very, very short window of time."

The $900 billion measure under discussion is expected to include a second $600 stimulus check, boosted unemployment benefits at $300 a week, additional funding for small businesses and another round of aid for the nation's beleaguered airline industry. The drafted proposal excludes two of the thorniest issues: funding for state and local governments and a liability shield for businesses against coronavirus-related lawsuits.

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