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“Congress is not going to be the Grinch,” a senior Democratic senator said on Sunday, as lawmakers stood poised to vote on a $900bn coronavirus aid package made possible by a late-night compromise on one of the final hurdles, a dispute over Federal Reserve pandemic lending authorities.
The package will be tied to a funding bill to avert a government shutdown.
Speaking to reporters at the US Capitol late on Saturday, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said: “If things continue on this path and nothing gets in the way, we’ll be able to vote tomorrow.”
The next day, Republican senator Mitt Romney told CNN’s State of the Union: “I believe there is going to be a deal. There are always sticking points, but the big one was resolved last night … They’re working out some additional points but I think it’s going to get done. It’ll get done before Christmas.”
Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat, referred to a popular Dr Seuss character who “stole” Christmas when he told ABC’s This Week: “The great news is, Congress is not going to be the Grinch. We’re going to get this package done.”
The coronavirus aid deal includes $600 direct payments to individuals and a $300 per week unemployment compensation supplement. It will be tied to a $1.4tn spending bill that funds government programs through September 2021. The House was due to meet at noon on Sunday in order to take up the bill.
“I do have optimism that it’ll pass,” House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy told Fox Business. “I am very hopeful that we get this done today.“
Donald Trump, whose administration has largely left negotiations to congressional leaders, complained that a deal had not been reached.
“Why isn’t Congress giving our people a Stimulus Bill? [The pandemic] wasn’t their fault, it was the fault of China,” Trump said on Twitter. “GET IT DONE, and give them more money in direct payments.”
Senator Pat Toomey, a Pennsylvania Republican, had insisted on language that would guarantee that the Fed could not revive emergency lending programs for small businesses and state and local governments after 31 December, when they expire under Cares Act relief legislation passed in March.
Republicans said the programs represented unnecessary government interference and politicized the Fed. They accused Democrats of seeking to extend them as a way to provide unchecked funds for state and local governments controlled by their party. Democrats accused the Republicans of trying to limit President-elect Joe Biden’s options for boosting the economy after he takes office on 20 January.
Toomey spokesman Steve Kelly said the senator’s agreement with Schumer “rescinds more than $429bn in unused Cares Act funds; definitively ends the Cares Act lending facilities by 31 December 2020; stops these facilities from being restarted; and forbids them from being duplicated without congressional approval.”
A senior Democratic aide said Toomey had agreed to “drop the broad language in his proposal that would have prevented the Fed chair from establishing similar facilities in the future”.
The Senate adjourned a rare Saturday session with a call from Republican leader Mitch McConnell to avoid last-minute disagreements.
In the 11 months since the first coronavirus cases were documented in the US, Covid-19 has killed around 316,000, by far the most in the world, and put millions out of work. Economists say growth will likely remain sluggish until vaccines are widely available in mid-2021.
On Sunday, Warner told ABC: “I was with Senator Schumer last night in his office until about 11pm. I was glad to see that Senator Toomey accepted Senator Schumer’s offer on a compromise … We did not think tying the hands of a future Fed or Treasury made any sense.
“…I’m very proud that in many ways this package only came about because a bipartisan group of senators spent a month working hard, showing the American people that we can actually do things when we have such an amazing need.
“So folks who are going to run out of unemployment the day after Christmas, or potentially get kicked out of their apartment, or those long lines at the food banks: help is on the way.”
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: ‘Congress is not going to be the Grinch’: Covid relief bill set to pass on Sunday | Coronavirus