Congress races to clinch coronavirus deal as shutdown looms

Congressional leaders are racing to finalize and pass a $900 billion coronavirus relief deal ahead of a midnight deadline to prevent a government shutdown.

Leadership says it is on the precipice of a sweeping deal that would tie the long-sought relief to a $1.4 trillion bill to fund the government until Oct. 1. If lawmakers can't pass the forthcoming agreement by the end of Sunday, something rank-and-file senators are casting doubt on, they'll need to use a stopgap bill to keep the government open.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTanden withdraws nomination as Biden budget chief Boehner book jacket teases slams against Cruz, Trump Gun violence prevention groups optimistic background check legislation can pass this Congress MORE (R-Ky.), entering the Capitol for the day, told reporters that they were "really, really close." 


"We are winnowing down the remaining differences. I think I can speak for all sides when I say I expect and hope to have a final agreement nailed down in a matter of hours," McConnell said from the floor during the rare Sunday session.

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiBiden coronavirus relief bill tests narrow Democratic majority Some Republicans say proxy voting gives advantage to Democrats Gun violence prevention groups optimistic background check legislation can pass this Congress MORE (D-Calif.) echoed that, saying, "We're very close."

Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerA Biden stumble on China? First Black secretary of Senate sworn in Republican Ohio Senate candidate calls on GOP rep to resign over impeachment vote MORE (D-N.Y.) said that "barring a major mishap" both the House and Senate could vote "as early as tonight."

"As we speak, the legislative text is being finalized. The time has come to move forward and reach a conclusion," he added from the Senate floor.

The progress toward a deal comes after a middle-of-the-night breakthrough on the last big sticking point: emergency lending facilities under the Federal Reserve.

The deal would close four Federal Reserve credit lending facilities created by the CARES Act and will prevent the Fed from standing up replica facilities in the future without congressional approval. The Fed will retain more flexibility over restarting the Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility, which will be closed but can be restarted in the future.


Sen. Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeySasse rebuked by Nebraska Republican Party over impeachment vote Philly 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 MORE (R-Pa.) told reporters during a conference call on Sunday afternoon that lawmakers were still working to finalize the Federal Reserve language but that he intended to support the overall package.

“Despite the significant reservations I have about some particular features, I think the good outweighs the bad, and it is my intention at this point to vote for it,” he said.

Leadership aides acknowledged that the agreement with Toomey on the language moved Congress significantly closer, but there are smaller issues to iron out, and leadership needs to finalize and finish drafting the year-end agreement.

"There are a few issues outstanding, but I'm quite hopeful that we're closing in on an outcome," Schumer said.

Lawmakers are also pushing for language in the deal for a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) tax "fix" over concerns that  businesses that received PPP loans will have to pay a larger-than-expected tax bill next year.

"Sounds to me like things aren't completely tied up," Sen. John CornynJohn CornynBottom line This week: Senate takes up coronavirus relief after minimum wage setback Senate mulls changes to .9 trillion coronavirus bill MORE (R-Texas) said on Sunday.

Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioGOP senators question Amazon on removal of book about 'transgender moment' CPAC, all-in for Trump, is not what it used to be Watch live: Day 2 at CPAC MORE (R-Fla.) added that the PPP language was still being debated as of Saturday night but that including a legislative fix has "broad support."

Because the coronavirus relief bill is linked to the omnibus government funding agreement, which appropriators say has been finalized for days, Congress needs to pass the deal by the end of Sunday in order to prevent a shutdown.

Congress has already had to use three continuing resolutions (CR) this year to keep the government operating: one that funded the government from Oct. 1 to Dec. 11 and a second that extended the deadline to Dec. 18. On Friday night, with negotiations ongoing, they bought themselves another 48 hours by passing a continuing resolution that funded the government until the end of Sunday.

The House is expected to vote on the coronavirus-government funding agreement before the deadline, though the vote could be held up until Sunday evening.

"Members are advised that votes are expected in the House today related to government funding and further Coronavirus relief legislation. Members are further advised that votes could occur late into the evening," a notice from House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerHouse plans for immigration bills add uncertainty on Biden proposal This week: Senate takes up coronavirus relief after minimum wage setback House set for tight vote on COVID-19 relief package MORE (D-Md.) advised.

It's unclear if the Senate will be able to vote by the midnight deadline. Because leadership is facing a time crunch, it would need cooperation from all 100 senators, with just one lawmaker able to slow down an agreement and push Congress past the deadline.


Sen. Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleyHouse plans for immigration bills add uncertainty on Biden proposal Hawley presses Wray on use of geolocation data to track Capitol rioters GOP senators question Amazon on removal of book about 'transgender moment' MORE (R-Mo.) floated on Sunday that he might not consent to quick passage of a CR. 

"I don’t think so. I don't think I'll consent to one. ... This plane needs to land," Hawley said about another stopgap bill. 

House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) told MSNBC that Congress would need another CR if both chambers weren't able to pass the bill on Sunday night. Cornyn, meanwhile, cast doubt that the Senate would be able to vote before Monday.

"I hear the text may not even be available until later on, and the House would have to vote on it first," Cornyn said about the chances the Senate votes on Sunday. "So I think it’s doubtful, would be my guess."

McConnell, asked about a Senate vote on Sunday, told reporters, "A quick vote would require a lot of cooperation. We'll see."

Several GOP senators floated that they expect the Senate's vote to spill into Monday. 


"That'd be rather optimistic to try to do it by tonight," said Sen. James LankfordJames Paul LankfordCPAC, all-in for Trump, is not what it used to be Republicans see Becerra as next target in confirmation wars Overnight Health Care: US surpasses half a million COVID deaths | House panel advances Biden's .9T COVID-19 aid bill | Johnson & Johnson ready to provide doses for 20M Americans by end of March MORE (R-Okla.), adding that a CR should be "readied." 

Sen. John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (R-La.) added that he didn't think the Senate would vote on Sunday. 

"I could be wrong, but I don't think there's enough time for us to get everything together," he said. "We can't vote until the House does." 

Updated at 2:20 p.m.