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House passes two-day stopgap bill to avoid shutdown

The House on Friday passed a two-day, stopgap spending bill to avert a government shutdown and provide negotiators additional time to iron out details on a larger funding and COVID-19 relief package. 

Both parties are still feverishly negotiating a long-stalled coronavirus relief package, but acknowledged that they needed more time to iron out remaining sticking points. 

The House passed the continuing resolution (CR) by a vote of 320-60. House Democrats unveiled the measure to keep the government open through Sunday less than eight hours before current funding expires at midnight.

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Senate GOP leaders are hoping to similarly move the CR through the upper chamber before the midnight deadline. 

But at least one senator, Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleyTo 'lower the temperature' raise commitments to federalism Leahy, not Roberts, to preside over impeachment trial Beto O'Rourke: Ted Cruz 'guilty of sedition' in Capitol insurrection MORE (R-Mo.), threatened earlier in the day to block passage of the bill unless congressional leaders provided a detailed update on the coronavirus relief negotiations. He later backed down and said that he would allow the stopgap bill to pass.

Hawley, along with Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersTim Ryan says he's 'looking seriously' at running for Portman's Senate seat Bernie Sanders has been most-followed member of Congress on social media for six years This week: Senate stuck in limbo MORE (I-Vt.), has been pushing for another round of $1,200 direct checks to individuals as part of the latest coronavirus relief package. Congressional leaders have been discussing a far smaller amount at $600, but it remains one of the unresolved issues.

Sanders was noncommittal early Friday evening on whether he would give consent to pass the two-day stopgap, telling reporters that "we are thinking about it."

Congressional leaders are planning to attach the coronavirus relief to a massive spending package to keep the government funded through the rest of the fiscal year. Lawmakers say that the spending bill is essentially ready to go, but the thorny negotiations over coronavirus relief have held up its passage.

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“I am so frustrated by the inability of us to act like adults, with responsibility," House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerBudowsky: Democracy won, Trump lost, President Biden inaugurated Congressional leaders present Biden, Harris with flags flown during inauguration LIVE INAUGURATION COVERAGE: Biden signs executive orders; press secretary holds first briefing MORE (D-Md.) told reporters.

The two parties have struggled to reach an agreement on coronavirus relief since the summer. But the negotiations have gained momentum after a bipartisan group of lawmakers provided a $908 billion framework earlier this month.

Lawmakers are also eager to provide another round of coronavirus relief with a number of programs established by the March CARES Act set to expire this month, including unemployment insurance and protections from evictions.

COVID-19 cases are also spiking nationally, with record numbers of confirmed infections, hospitalizations and deaths.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyCheney spokesperson on Gaetz: 'In Wyoming, the men don't wear make-up' Biden attends first church service as president in DC, stops at local bagel shop House GOP leader says he has 'concerns' over Cheney's impeachment vote MORE (R-Calif.) told reporters that negotiators are closing in on an agreement. 

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“I think we're very close to getting an agreement. I think two more days, it allows the time to get it done and allow time for people to read,” he said. 

Passage of the stopgap measure will force Congress into a rare weekend session as congressional leaders race to reach a deal before the holidays.

“The American people urgently need coronavirus relief and this short stopgap bill will allow bipartisan, bicameral negotiators to complete their work on this important issue,” House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita LoweyNita Sue LoweyTrump seeks to freeze .4 billion of programs in final week of presidency This week: Trump's grip on Hill allies faces test Trump signs .3T relief, spending package MORE (D-N.Y.) said in a statement. 

“I look forward to swiftly passing omnibus appropriations and coronavirus relief legislation through the House as soon as possible,” she added.

Among the unresolved issues in the coronavirus relief negotiations are a GOP push to shut down the Treasury Department’s and Federal Reserve’s credit lending facilities; the scope of the direct checks; and a Democratic effort to include funding for state and local emergencies to be administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Democrats are accusing the GOP of trying to hamstring the incoming Biden administration, while Republicans are concerned that the Federal Reserve lending authority and FEMA funding could be used as funding for state and local governments, which they oppose.

Republicans agreed to drop demands for a liability shield for businesses against coronavirus-related lawsuits in exchange for Democrats ending their push for state and local government funding.

The coronavirus relief package is expected to total around $900 billion. It is expected to include additional Paycheck Protection Program aid for small businesses, funding for vaccine distribution and renewal of unemployment insurance and eviction moratorium measures.