Congressional Leaders Work to finalize a $900 Billion Stimulus Deal

Congressional Leaders Work to finalize a $900 Billion Stimulus Deal

Congressional Leaders Work to finalize a $900 Billion Stimulus Deal

Congressional Leaders Work to finalize a $900 Billion Stimulus Deal

Senators broke through an impasse late Saturday night over a Republican effort to curtail the powers of the Federal Reserve, clearing away what had been seen as the final hurdle to a deal on a $900 billion stimulus compromise as lawmakers raced against a Sunday-night deadline to avoid a government shutdown.

With time running out for a deal, Senator Patrick J. Toomey, Republican of Pennsylvania, agreed to narrow his effort to rein in the central bank, according to three aides familiar with the discussion. All three aides, speaking on the condition of anonymity, noted that the precise language was still being finalized.

The agreement was a critical breakthrough for lawmakers who have been racing to complete the emergency plan to rush direct payments, unemployment benefits and food and rental assistance to millions of Americans struggling financially during the coronavirus pandemic, as well as relief to businesses and funds for vaccine distribution. While negotiators were still wrangling over a number of smaller issues, the Federal Reserve language had emerged as the biggest impediment to a final agreement.

“If things continue on this path, and nothing gets in the way, we’ll be able to vote tomorrow,” Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the minority leader, told reporters as he left the Capitol shortly before midnight. “House and Senate.”

The breakthrough came as a C.D.C. panel endorsed a second vaccine, by Moderna, and the country confronted another stark reminder of how desperately vaccines are needed: Friday’s record caseload of over 251,000 new coronavirus cases, nearly double the 128,000 people who had been vaccinated in the United States as of Friday, according to a New York Times database tracking vaccinations. Officials are warning that hospitals, which now hold nearly 114,000 Covid-19 patients, could soon be overwhelmed.

Mr. Toomey had sought to bar the Fed and Treasury Department from setting up any loan program similar to those established this year that have helped to keep credit flowing to corporate, municipal and medium-size business borrowers during the pandemic recession.

The agreed-upon alternative, offered by Mr. Schumer and still being drafted near midnight on Saturday, aides familiar with the process said, would bar only programs that were more or less exact copycats of the ones newly employed in 2020.

“We’re right within reach,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi privately told House Democrats in a party conference call on Saturday. But she said Mr. Toomey’s late-stage demands to rein in the Fed were slowing the process.

President Trump, who has been largely absent from the stimulus talks in recent weeks, chastised Congress shortly after midnight on Sunday.

“Why isn’t Congress giving our people a Stimulus Bill?” Mr. Trump said on Twitter. “GET IT DONE, and give them more money in direct payments.”

The emerging deal would send direct payments of $600 to many Americans and provide enhanced federal jobless payments of $300 per week until early spring. It would also provide hundreds of billions of dollars to prop up small businesses, schools and other institutions struggling amid the pandemic.

Lawmakers and aides in both parties acknowledged that the Fed provision presented the most significant hurdle to a final agreement, even though negotiators were still haggling over a number of outstanding technical details, including how to provide for food assistance and the scope of unemployment benefits.

With government funding set to lapse Sunday and both chambers hoping to merge the stimulus package with a catchall measure to cover all federal spending for the remainder of the fiscal year, time was dwindling to find a resolution.

Without action by Congress, two programs designed to expand and enhance unemployment benefits are set to expire in the coming days, leaving about 12 million Americans without federal support. A number of other benefits are set to expire at the end of the year.




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