Congress clinches sweeping deal on coronavirus relief, government funding

Congressional leaders on Sunday reached a mammoth deal to fund the government and provide long-sought coronavirus relief as lawmakers race to wrap up their work for the year. 

The deal will tie a $1.4 trillion bill to fund the government until Oct. 1 to roughly $900 billion in coronavirus aid. In order to give Congress time to process and pass the agreement, the House and Senate passed a one-day stopgap bill on Sunday.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced the deal from the Senate floor on early Sunday evening. 

“For the information of all senators and more importantly for the American people, we can finally report what our nation has needed to hear for a very long time: More help is on the way,” McConnell said.

“Moments ago, in consultation with our committees, the four leaders of the Senate and the House finalized an agreement. It will be another major rescue package for the American people,” McConnell added.

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) put out a joint statement confirming the deal. 

“Today, we have reached agreement with Republicans and the White House on an emergency coronavirus relief and omnibus package that delivers urgently needed funds to save the lives and livelihoods of the American people as the virus accelerates,” they said. 

The coronavirus deal, hashed out by the top four congressional leaders, doesn’t include more money directly for state and local governments or protections against coronavirus-related lawsuits — a top priority for Democrats and McConnell, respectively. 

It does include another round of small-business aid through the Paycheck Protection Program, a $300-per-week unemployment benefit for 11 weeks, a pared-down $600 second round of stimulus checks, and more money for things such as schools, coronavirus testing and vaccine distribution.  

McConnell, during his floor speech, noted that text was still being finalized. The White House quickly indicated that Trump will sign the deal.

“President Trump has pushed hard for months to send Americans badly needed financial relief. We look forward to Congress sending a bill to his desk imminently for signature,” said Ben Williamson, a White House spokesman. 

The agreement came together after Schumer and Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) struck a deal late Saturday night on the final big hold: federal emergency lending facilities.  

Congress hasn’t passed coronavirus relief since April, even as cases have surged, hospitals are warning they could be overwhelmed, and cities and states are reinstating lockdown measures to try to curb the spread heading into the holidays. 

Even as they announced a deal, McConnell and Schumer took shots at each other for who was to blame for the months-long delay in coronavirus relief. 

“The agreement on this package can be summed up by the expression ‘better late than never,’ although I know many of my Republican colleagues wished it was never,” Schumer said. 

McConnell, during his remarks, said, “From where I stand, from where Senate Republicans stand, there’s no reason why this urgent package could not have been signed into law multiple months ago.” 

The sweeping agreement comes after days of around-the-clock talks to reach a deal on funding the government and as leadership faced growing pressure from rank-and-file members to pass at least some coronavirus help before the end of the year. 

McConnell, Schumer, Pelosi and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) met twice on Tuesday night to try to finalize an agreement and predicted that they were close. 

But instead, talks dragged through the week, with Congress having to pass a two-day continuing resolution (CR) to avoid a government shutdown that would have started on Saturday. 

Congress is buying itself more time to pass and send the deal to President Trump’s desk, after House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) announced that the House would pass a one-day stopgap bill instead of voting on the coronavirus-government funding package immediately.

The House was initially expected to vote on the deal on Sunday night, but an update from Hoyer said that the one-day CR would be the only vote in the House on Sunday. 

“I’m pleased we have reached an agreement on COVID-19 relief and an omnibus, which I expect we’ll pass tomorrow and send to the Senate. In order to provide time to prepare the bill for consideration, the House will meet at 6:30 p.m. to consider a one-day continuing resolution,” Hoyer added in a tweet. 

That will delay passage through both chambers until at least Monday. The House is expected to pass the deal and send it over to the Senate by early Monday afternoon where leadership is eager to pass it quickly. Under the Senate’s rules any one member can hold it up, potentially for days, but none have said they will. 

Congressional leaders are expected to need a separate days-long CR in order to give them time to get the mammoth bill to President Trump’s desk and for him to sign it to avoid a government shutdown.

The House is expected to tuck the longer CR, likely lasting seven days, into its package that governs the debate of the omnibus-coronavirus package. Once the House passes the rules for its debate, the longer, days-long CR will automatically go to the Senate for passage.

“Well, whatever they send over, I assume we will pick it up and transact it,” Sen. John Thune (S.D.), the No. 2 Senate Republican, said about the potential for a seven-day CR. “I suppose by the time … we get everything processed and paperwork and enrolled and down to the White House, maybe that’s what it takes.”

Mike Lillis and Al Weaver contributed. 

Updated 10:20 p.m.

Tags Charles Schumer coronavirus relief Donald Trump government funding bill Government funding deal John Thune Kevin McCarthy Mitch McConnell Nancy Pelosi Pat Toomey Steny Hoyer Susan Collins

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