- The Washington Times - Friday, December 18, 2020

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he was “optimistic” for a bipartisan coronavirus deal Friday as negotiations made “significant headway.”

Lawmakers are racing to finalize a massive stimulus package — combining $1.4 trillion of government funding and COVID-19 relief — with a government-shutdown deadline hours away at midnight.

“The Democratic Leader, Speaker Pelosi, Leader McCarthy, and I have been working around the clock for several days now. The talks remain productive,” Mr. McConnell, Kentucky Republican, said. “In fact, I am even more optimistic now than I was last night that a bipartisan, bicameral framework for a major rescue package is close at hand.”

Mr. McConnell told reporters that he thinks a short-term stopgap funding measure will “probably” be needed to keep the government running past midnight on Friday.

Congressional leaders were nearing a roughly $900 billion deal earlier this week, that was set to include another, limited, round of direct stimulus payments to individuals and families, aid to small businesses and extended boosted unemployment benefits.

The talks are continuing to drag on as lawmakers haggle over the details.

Congress has not passed a comprehensive coronavirus relief package since the spring.

One of the outstanding hangups is a push from Sen. Pat Toomey, Pennsylvania Republican to restrict the Federal Reserve emergency lending program — established back in March with the first major stimulus package — by the end of this year.

“An agreement was in sight to deliver aid to the American people until Sen. Toomey and Republicans inserted an 11th hour purely political, unrelated provision to tie Biden’s hands and risk throwing the economy into a tailspin,” a senior Democratic aide told The Washington Times.

In a press call on Thursday, Mr. Toomey denied that was his intention, arguing that the programs were always designed to be short-term and the efforts to ensure these programs ended before the end of the year began long before the November election.

“In the future, if some kind of dire emergency occurs, at that point the Fed and Treasury should come to Congress if they believe any kind of extraordinary program is needed,” Mr. Toomey said.

And there are still concerns about finer points of the deal, such as the amount of money in the direct stimulus payments and the FEMA disaster relief fund.

The Biden transition team spoke out against Mr. Toomey’s provision, saying it “could put our future financial stability at risk.”

• Gabriella Muñoz can be reached at gmunoz@washingtontimes.com.

Copyright © 2023 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide

Sponsored Stories