Deal reached 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. Congress has until the end of Sunday to pass the deal, or a stopgap bill, otherwise the government will shut down. 

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

"Moments ago in consultation with our committees, the four leaders of the Senate and the House finalized an agreement,” McConnell said. 

A spokesman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) didn't immediately respond to questions about the agreement. 

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 lawsuits — a top priority for Democrats and McConnell, respectively. 

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

The agreement fell in line after Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) struck a deal late Saturday night on the final big hold: Federal emergency lending facilities. 

Leadership signaled early Sunday afternoon that they were finalizing text of an agreement, with hopes that it could be struck within hours. 

Schumer predicted 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.

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. 

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. 

They now need to pass their agreement, or another stopgap bill, by the end of Sunday. 

The House is expected to vote on the agreement by the deadline, though it could be late into Sunday evening, just hours before the deadline. 

"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 Hoyer (D-Md.) advised.

Whether the Senate will vote before midnight is unclear. Because leadership is in a time crunch any one senator can slow things down and push the chamber into Monday or beyond. 

GOP senators cast doubt that they would be able to vote by midnight and floated that they should pass another CR even if it is  just to prevent an hours-long shutdown. 

“I don't know how you can have this gap in funding between midnight tonight and when we pass the bill. Even if it's less than 24 hours, it still has an impact on agencies and who comes to work and who’s deemed essentials, so it seems to me we're going to have to have another very short term one,” said Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine). 

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