On The Money: Congress passes bill to avert shutdown as coronavirus talks drag into weekend | Federal Reserve fight imperils relief talks
Happy Friday and welcome back to On The Money. I’m Sylvan Lane, and here’s your nightly guide to everything affecting your bills, bank account and bottom line.
THE BIG DEAL—Congress passes bill to avert shutdown as coronavirus talks drag into weekend: Congress passed a days-long stopgap bill on Friday, hours before the government was scheduled to shut down, as negotiations over another coronavirus stimulus bill stretched into the weekend.
- The legislation, which passed the Senate in a voice vote, extends the government funding deadline from Dec. 18 to the end of Dec. 20, giving negotiators more time to finish a sweeping deal to provide year-end coronavirus relief and fund the government through Oct. 1.
- The House already passed the two-day continuing resolution (CR), meaning it now goes to President Trump’s desk. He’ll need to sign it before midnight in order to prevent a temporary, middle-of-the-night lapse in government funding.
“I think all of our colleagues understand our present situation. Both sides of the aisle are firmly committed to finalizing another pandemic rescue package … But alas we are not there yet,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) “Given that, our urgent task is to pass a stopgap funding measure.”
It wasn’t clear throughout Friday that the Senate would be able to pass the stopgap bill. The Hill’s Jordain Carney tells us why here.
Shutdown averted: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) initially interrupted passage of the bill on Friday night as though to object but ultimately did not.
“Majority Leader McConnell and I do not agree on much but as I understand it we are in agreement on at least one point and that is that the Senate cannot go home until a COVID emergency relief bill is passed,” Sanders said.
Coronavirus deal the last hurdle: Lawmakers approved the stopgap bill with leaders still haggling over a deal that would tie roughly $900 billion in coronavirus aid to a $1.4 trillion bill to fund the government.
Negotiators had hoped to be able to announce a deal on an overarching package by Friday night’s deadline, but have yet to resolve several key sticking points.
- Tensions flared Friday over an effort by Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) to include language in the bill codifying the end of an emergency federal lending facility and preventing the incoming Biden administration from restarting it.
- Democrats view the demand as a non-starter but the push has wide support among Republicans.
“Legal experts, senior banking officials, and former Republican and Democratic regulatory officials all agree: the proposal to pull back on the Fed’s 13(3) authority would set a terrible precedent, hurt the Fed’s independence, and weaken its ability to respond quickly to future crises,” said Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.).
The Hill’s Niv Elis has more here on the fight over the Fed’s lending facilities.
LEADING THE DAY
GOP senator blocks bill for $1,200 stimulus checks for second time: GOP Sen. Ron Johnson (Wis.) blocked a proposal to provide another round of stimulus checks for the second time on Friday — this time when it was offered by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).
- Sanders, speaking from the Senate floor late Friday afternoon, tried to pass his bill that would provide a second $1,200 stimulus check for Americans making up to $75,000, the same language passed during a March CARES Act.
- Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) also tried earlier Friday and was similarly blocked by Johnson, who argued that additional coronavirus relief needs to be targeted and voiced concerns about the country’s debt.
“I’m not heartless. I want to help people … I voted for the $2.2 trillion CARES Act but I am also concerned about our children’s future … We do not have an unlimited checking account,” Johnson, who is up for reelection in 2022, said after he blocked Sanders’s request.
Sanders, before he tried to pass the bill, said it was “comical that suddenly our Republican friends once again discover that we have a deficit.”
Jordain has more here.
Lawmakers ask IRS if its systems were compromised in SolarWinds hack: Two key House lawmakers are seeking answers from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) about whether any of the agency’s systems were compromised as part of a massive cyberattack.
“We believe that it is important to provide taxpayers with a full understanding of the extent of the SolarWinds Orion compromise to maintain confidence in the federal tax system,” Reps. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) and Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) — the chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the House Ways and Means Committee’s oversight subcommittee — wrote in a letter Friday to IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig.
“We also request that you provide a bipartisan briefing on these matters as soon as possible,” the lawmakers added.
- Media outlets have reported that several federal agencies were breached as part of a hack on IT company SolarWinds. The attack is widely believed to have been carried out by a Russian military group.
- The Treasury Department, which houses IRS, is one of the departments that reportedly was breached.
- The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency has directed federal agencies to examine their networks for indications of any compromise.
The Hill’s Naomi Jagoda tells us more here.
GOOD TO KNOW
- A top economic adviser to President-elect Joe Biden on Friday spoke out against a GOP effort to include language in a COVID-19 relief package that would prevent the Federal Reserve from using certain emergency measures.
- The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Friday cleared the nation’s second coronavirus vaccine, giving additional hope that the end of the pandemic could be in sight.
- President-elect Joe Biden’s Commerce secretary will play a critical role in proving his administration can work effectively with the business community, which is eager to reestablish a relationship with the White House.