McConnell Says Congress Has Reached Agreement On COVID Relief Package

Sunday, December 20th 2020, 5:16 pm
By: CBS News


Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Sunday said Democrats and Republicans have "finalized a deal" on a $900 billion COVID-19 relief package. It's unclear when they will vote on it, although the government is set to shutdown if a deal is not reached by midnight. 

"As our citizens continue battling this coronavirus this holiday season, they will not be fighting alone," McConnell said Sunday on the Senate floor.

Democrats had objected to a proposal by Republican Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania that would wind down three lending programs established by the Federal Reserve in the spring to address the economic toll of the pandemic. The disagreement threatened to derail talks over the massive $900 billion relief bill, which includes direct payments to taxpayers, expanded unemployment benefits and hundreds of billions of dollars in pandemic-related aid.

The House and Senate convened Sunday afternoon and could vote on a relief and funding package by the end of the day. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told members to expect votes later in the day, and possibly "late into the evening."

Congress passed a two-day extension of government funding that the president signed into law to avoid a government shutdown Friday night. That extension expires at midnight Sunday, meaning lawmakers would need to extend the deadline further if votes on the relief bill stretch into Monday. Leaders are hoping to combine the relief bill with the larger year-long $1.4 trillion spending package.

An aide to Toomey and a senior Democratic aide confirmed late Saturday that the two sides had reached an agreement on the language in Toomey's proposal. Toomey said on a conference call on Sunday that he had agreed to narrow the language to apply only to the three lending facilities established by the CARES Act.

"I can tell you that, yes, we did narrow it," Toomey said. "Because the Democrats made a fair point. That was too broad. And that might have captured facilities that we didn't intend to capture, and so it was, yes, it was narrowed."

Toomey also said he would support the final package: "Despite the significant reservations I have about some particular features, I think the good outweighs the bad and it is my intention, at this point, to vote for it."

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, the upper chamber's top Democrat, said in a speech on the Senate floor on Sunday that "barring a major mishap," Congress will vote "as early as tonight."

"We have surmounted the final largest hurdle and an ending is in sight," he said. "Let's get the job done together for the sake of the American people."

Lawmakers were working through the weekend to reach a deal on government funding measure and the relief bill before the Christmas holiday, with several key programs set to expire by the end of the year. 

Alan He contributed reporting.

First published on December 20, 2020 / 10:04 AM

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