Lawmakers eye possible Sunday vote on coronavirus aid package

All Patriot NewsDecember 20, 20206min

House and Senate leaders eyed a Sunday deal on a coronavirus relief package after daylong talks on new sticking points.

Weeks of negotiations have helped bring agreement on much of a $900 billion package, but lawmakers are squabbling over language restricting the Federal Reserve’s future lending capacity and a few other provisions.

Sen. Pat Toomey, a Pennsylvania Republican, is leading a GOP effort to add language to the measure that would ensure special lending abilities provided to the Federal Reserve in response to the coronavirus do not extend into the new year.

Republicans say the language is needed because the Federal Reserve’s bolstered lending powers were never meant to extend into 2021, but Democrats say the move will overly tie the hands of the central bank.

“We keep trying. We’re trying,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, told reporters in the Capitol at the end of an unusual Saturday session.

The Senate will reconvene at 1 p.m. on Sunday, providing additional time for lawmakers to try to work out a compromise on the Federal Reserve’s lending language.

Minority Whip Richard Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, said lawmakers are close to resolving other differences and that the major sticking point remains the Federal Reserve.

“It really is up to Mr. Toomey at this point, what he will accept,” Durbin said.

Lawmakers plan to bundle a coronavirus aid package with 2021 spending and will try to pass it by tomorrow night. Congress passed a stopgap government funding bill on Friday that expires Sunday at midnight.

The coronavirus aid package would provide a $900 billion round of federal aid for businesses, schools, daycares, and healthcare, as well as additional money for rental assistance and food stamps. It would provide additional supplemental jobless pay and a new round of stimulus checks worth around $700.

[Read more: Lawmakers battle over state and local aid in coronavirus bill]

The bulk of the measure’s spending is directed to new loans for small businesses that are coping with more economic lockdowns amid a sharp rise in coronavirus cases across the nation.

The Toomey provision limiting the Federal Reserve is a tough sticking point.

Democrats have not been willing to back down on their objections to what they believe is an attempt to limit the incoming Biden administration.

“The Republicans have put this last-minute provision to try to strip from the Fed the power it needs to be able to act in an emergency,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, said Saturday. “That’s something we just can’t go along with.”

Republicans said they want to tighten up the original lending language passed earlier in 2020.

“The issue revolves around the ability of the Fed to provide various emergency relief, and the concern on our part as Republicans is not to have that facility used for political purposes, but instead to be preserved for true emergencies,” Sen. Mitt Romney, a Utah Republican, said Saturday.

Leadership in both parties have pledged to keep Congress in session until lawmakers reach a deal and pass a new aid package.

“We need to conclude our talks, draft legislation, and land this plane,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, said Saturday.

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