Lawmakers expect COVID-19 relief deal soon

Republican and Democratic senators expect a deal on a $900 billion coronavirus relief bill to be announced soon, as most outstanding issues have been resolved with one exception: a GOP provision to wind down the Federal Reserve’s credit lending facilities.

Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven MnuchinOn The Money: Schumer urges Democrats to stick together on .9T bill | Collins rules out GOP support for Biden relief plan | Powell fights inflation fears Mnuchin expected to launch investment fund seeking backing from Persian Gulf region: report Larry Kudlow debuts to big ratings on Fox Business Network MORE is scheduled to give GOP senators a phone briefing on the latest developments in the negotiations, and lawmakers are optimistic a final agreement could be announced later Saturday or sometime Sunday.

Senate Majority Whip John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneSenate GOP campaign chief talks strategy with Trump Graham, Trump huddle to talk GOP's 2022 strategy Top firms slash donations to candidates by 90 percent: analysis MORE (R-S.D.) said that negotiators worked “through the night” and that a final vote on a COVID-19 relief package is possible on Sunday but “more likely” the following day.


"I'm hoping if they can make and announce a deal today, it can be written up and voted on," Thune said Saturday. "Best-case scenario would be sometimes tomorrow but more likely probably Monday."

Thune said he expects Mnuchin to give GOP senators “a status report” at 1 p.m. and “hopefully an announcement that the deal is imminent” and that negotiators will “be announcing it later.”

“I know they're still working through a couple of issues” he added but said he had reason to believe a deal would be announced soon. 

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiFive big takeaways on the Capitol security hearings Curator estimates Capitol art damage from mob totals K Democrats want businesses to help get LGBT bill across finish line MORE (D-Calif.) told Democratic House members during a conference call Saturday that a deal is within reach as soon as negotiators hammer out an agreement on language being pushed by Sen. Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyPhilly GOP commissioner on censures: 'I would suggest they censure Republican elected officials who are lying' Toomey censured by several Pennsylvania county GOP committees over impeachment vote Toomey on Trump vote: 'His betrayal of the Constitution' required conviction MORE (R-Pa.) to wind down the Federal Reserve credit lending facilities.

Pelosi told colleagues that the “good news” is “we’re right within reach” of resolving that disagreement.


Toomey’s language would rescind unused funding allocated by Congress in the March CARES Act to backstop Fed lending programs. It would reiterate that five Fed credit lending facilities will expire at the end of the year and ensure that the Treasury Department and Fed couldn’t create future clones of the program.

Republicans worry that the Biden administration could otherwise use the authority to use the Federal Reserve to fund state and local governments or other priorities. Democrats argue that Republicans are trying to take away the Fed’s flexibility in responding to economic developments once Joe BidenJoe BidenHoyer: House will vote on COVID-19 relief bill Friday Pence huddles with senior members of Republican Study Committee Powell pushes back on GOP inflation fears MORE is president.

Pelosi told colleagues Saturday that Toomey’s proposal “would forever prohibit the president from engaging in exactly what President Obama did at the time of the Great Recession,” according to a source familiar with the call.

She said a deal could come together very quickly once the dispute over the Fed’s powers are resolved.

Asked for an update on the talks, Senate Minority Whip Dick DurbinDick DurbinProgressive support builds for expanding lower courts McConnell backs Garland for attorney general Watch live: Senate Democratic leaders hold media availability MORE (D-Ill.) said they’re boiling down to “Toomey, Toomey, Toomey.”


Toomey on Saturday declined to comment on whether he would accept compromise language but noted that his provision is not being newly introduced to the talks, as it was included in a slimmed-down relief bill that Senate Republicans unveiled after the August recess.

Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsMicrosoft, FireEye push for breach reporting rules after SolarWinds hack On The Money: Schumer urges Democrats to stick together on .9T bill | Collins rules out GOP support for Biden relief plan | Powell fights inflation fears Schumer urges Democrats to stick together on .9T bill MORE (R-Maine), a key moderate who helped put together a $908 billion compromise proposal in recent weeks, said she was told the Toomey provision is the last remaining open issue.

“I think there are ways to compromise on that. I talked to Sen. Toomey yesterday,” she said. “I hope we can come together.” 

Thune told reporters there was “another issue that came up here late.”

Pelosi identified that as a fight among negotiators over additional funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps.

"One of the fights that we were having overnight ... was about food," she told Democratic colleagues, according to a person familiar with her call. 

Pelosi said she told Republicans, “Do yourself a favor from a public relations standpoint. People are in line for food. And why are you cutting that to stay within some number?” 

Updated: 1:55 p.m.