XSTAR/AP) – “We’re getting very close, very close,” Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said as he left the Capitol late Saturday.
Top congressional lawmakers struck a late-night agreement on the last major obstacle to a COVID-19 economic relief package costing nearly $1 trillion, clearing the way for votes as early as Sunday.
The breakthrough involved a fight over Federal Reserve emergency powers and was resolved by the Senate’s top Democrat and a senior conservative Republican.
Congressional aides confirmed the agreement late Saturday, which clears the way for an expected deal Sunday on the aid bill. The measure is finally nearing passage amid a frightening spike in cases and deaths and accumulating evidence that the economy is struggling through the pandemic.
Schumer spent much of the day going back and forth with GOP Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania. Toomey had been pressing a provision to close down Fed lending facilities. Democrats and the White House said it was too broadly worded and would have tied the hands of the incoming Biden administration.
The compromise, aides said, preserved Toomey’s goal but retained the Fed’s existing powers to restart similar facilities in the future.
The COVID-19 legislation has been held up after months of dysfunction, posturing and bad faith. But talks turned serious last week as lawmakers on both sides finally faced the deadline of acting before leaving Washington for Christmas.
The relief bill, lawmakers and aides say, would establish a temporary $300 per week supplemental jobless benefits and $600 direct stimulus payments to most Americans. It would provide a fresh round of subsidies for hard-hit businesses and money for schools, health care providers and renters facing eviction.