Congress reaches deal on $900B relief after resolving key difference

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., shown here at a briefing at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC , July 2. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI

Dec. 20 (UPI) — The U.S. Senate reached a deal on a $900 billion relief package from the economic effects of coronavirus, possibly by Sunday, after a key difference between Democrats and Republicans was resolved regarding the role of the Federal Reserve to intervene in lending authority.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., announced Sunday evening that lawmakers had come to an agreement on a COVID-19 aid package and a $1.4 trillion omnibus spending bill but did not provide details.

A vote could be delayed until Monday because several senators would need to return to town, CNN reported.

On Friday, Congress had adopted a two-day short-term funding extension to prevent a government shutdown.

The relief contains direct stimulus checks between $600 and $700, according to a commitment GOP leaders made to Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., on Friday. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., negotiated with Hawley to include the stimulus checks.

The package also includes $300 per week in jobless benefits, $330 billion for small business loans, more than $80 billion for schools, and several billion dollars for vaccine distribution.

President Donald Trump weighed in Saturday night on the relief bill, posting in Twitter: “Why isn’t Congress giving our people a Stimulus Bill? It wasn’t their fault, it was the fault of China. GET IT DONE, and give them more money in direct payments.”

McConnell, R-Ky., required consent from all 99 of his colleagues to waive procedural hurdles.

“If things continue on this path and nothing gets in the way, we’ll be able to vote tomorrow,” Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-NY.,” said Saturday night. “This cannot go on,” Sen. Chris Coons, a Delaware Democrat, said.

Sen. Bill Cassidy, a Louisiana Republican, said “I think they’re going to resolve” any differences with a “more narrow focus.”

“Now that Democrats have agreed to a version of Senator Toomey’s important language, we can begin closing out the rest of the package to deliver much-needed relief to families, workers, and businesses,” said Doug Andres, a spokesman for McConnell.

At around 9 p.m., Republicans, including Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., told Schumer that they would accept language in the bill on Federal Reserve’s lending, according to the GOP aides.

In the agreement, $429 billion in unspent CARES Act funding would be removed for the Federal Reserve’s credit lending facilities and use as part of a new $900 billion coronavirus relief bill, The Hill reported. Four facilities would be closed.

Both sides agreed to specific language instead of an agreement in principle.


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