Trump Signs One-Day Stopgap to Fund Government: Congress Update
(Bloomberg) -- Congressional leaders said they have agreed Sunday on the terms of a roughly $900 billion plan to help the U.S. economy weather the coronavirus pandemic, though the House and Senate won’t vote on it until Monday.
President Donald Trump signed a one-day temporary extension of government funding passed Sunday by the House and Senate to avoid a partial shutdown of federal agencies before the relief package is voted on and signed into law. Congress plans to combine the virus-related measures with $1.4 trillion in government spending for fiscal year 2021.
The pandemic relief deal includes funds for small businesses, stimulus payments for most individuals, supplemental unemployment benefits, support for vaccine distribution and resources for education, child care and housing.
Trump Signs Temporary Spending Measure (11:46 p.m.)
President Donald Trump signed a one-day interim funding resolution late Sunday that will keep federal agencies open through the end of Monday, according to a White House statement.
The stopgap measure, passed hours earlier by the House and Senate, is aimed at giving lawmakers time to wrap up work on the pandemic relief package, which will be attached to a separate, broader government spending bill.
Senate Passes One-Day Stopgap to Fund Government (7:50 p.m.)
The Senate, following action in the House, passed a one-day stopgap measure to keep the government operating through Monday so lawmakers have a chance to vote on a pandemic relief bill that is attached to a measure to fund federal agencies.
The resolution was the third temporary funding measure passed in two weeks as lawmakers struggled to reach agreement on the relief package.
Congressional Leaders Agree on Pandemic Relief (6:10 p.m.)
The top Republicans and Democrats in Congress have reached agreement on a nearly $900 billion pandemic relief package that the House and Senate will vote on Monday.
The text of the legislation is still being written but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the Senate floor that “at long last we have a bipartisan breakthrough” that was needed to get the bill passed in the House and Senate.
It will include extended jobless aid, direct payments to most Americans as well as money for schools and vaccine distribution.
Aid for Jobless to Be Extended for 11 Weeks (5:08 p.m.)
The virus relief plan being readied for a vote in Congress would provide jobless Americans an additional 11 weeks of federal unemployment insurance benefits plus a supplemental payment of $300 a week, a person familiar with negotiations said Sunday.
That includes those receiving state unemployment benefits as well as those receiving Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, the program that provided jobless benefits to those not traditionally eligible like gig workers and the self-employed. Without Congressional action, the program was on track to expire at year-end, which would have caused millions of Americans to lose their jobless benefits.
Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, which provided up to 13 additional weeks of jobless benefits to those who had exhausted their regular state benefits, would be extended to 24 weeks.
The extra $300-a-week supplement, similar to the extra $600 supplement that expired at the end of July, will continue through mid-March, and provide millions of Americans additional funds to pay their bills as the pandemic rages on. The extension is five weeks shorter than proposed by a bipartisan group of senators two weeks ago.
Additional aid would come in the form of stimulus checks. Families that meet the guidelines will receive $600 per adult and child, according to Senator Josh Hawley. -- Reade Pickert and Erik Wasson
Lawmakers Say Another Stopgap May be Needed (4:05 p.m.)
Republican Senators Susan Collins and James Lankford said Congress should approve another short-term government funding measure to give lawmakers more time to review and pass a combined coronavirus relief and federal spending package.
Current federal spending authority expires at midnight Sunday. An extension would give lawmakers at least a day to read the relief package, which has yet to be made public. Lankford said that lawmakers shouldn’t be asked to vote on the legislation, which is estimated to cost more than $2.3 trillion including the regular government funding portion, the same day it is released.
However, Missouri Republican Senator Josh Hawley said he wouldn’t be likely to give his consent to a stopgap in order to keep the pressure on to get the relief bill done. A short lapse in funding authority would have limited impact as as the White House has legal authority to delay a shutdown for a matter of hours. --Erik Wasson
Mnuchin Briefs House GOP on Framework (12:46 p.m.)
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin spoke to House Republicans early Sunday afternoon on the framework of the emerging deal, according to multiple persons on that call.
The timing of any vote in the House or Senate on the stimulus plan is still uncertain. There was growing skepticism among senior leadership aides that the package could be passed even in the House on Sunday. Some are expecting another very short continuing resolution, to extend government spending set under a current bill to expire after midnight.
Negotiators are finalizing “technical aspects” of an agreement reached late Saturday about the Federal Reserve’s emergency lending powers, said Senator Pat Toomey, a Pennsylvania Republican.
Democrats and Republicans agreed to narrow a provision pushed by Toomey to wind down four Cares Act lending programs and prevent the Fed from re-launching the same emergency facilities at a later date.
“There was a complaint that my initial language was too broad and could be interpreted as too sweeping,” Toomey said in a call with reporters. The provision had been one of the last sticking points preventing lawmakers from reaching a final agreement. -- Laura Davison and Billy House
Stimulus Deal Gets Done Today, Barrasso Says (9:30 a.m)
“This gets done today; no more delays,” GOP Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming said on “Fox News Sunday.” “We’re not leaving until we have relief for the American people. People are hurting, people need help.”
He added that the Americans who received direct stimulus checks earlier in the year can expect another round as part of the package.
The size of the checks is still uncertain, and is tied in part to the Republican “red line” on the price-tag of the stimulus bill. If it’s closer to $1 trillion than $900 billion, the checks could be larger than the $600 recently discussed.
President Donald Trump tweeted just after midnight to “give them more money in direct payments.” -- Reade Pickert
Toomey Says Fed Independence Preserved: (7:45 a.m.)
Senator Pat Toomey, architect of the plan to limit emergency Fed lending programs, said in a statement overnight that the agreement reached was “an unqualified victory for taxpayers” yet “will preserve Fed independence.”
The Pennsylvania Republican said the compromise would “prevent Democrats from hijacking these programs for political and social policy purposes.”
Former Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke issued a rare public warning on Saturday urging that the central bank’s ability to respond to future crises be left “fully intact.” At least some Republicans, including Senator Mitt Romney, said that the high-stakes pandemic stimulus talks were not the time to discuss “major reforms to the Fed.”
It was unclear Sunday morning when votes would start in the House and Senate. On Saturday lawmakers were still negotiating details of an increase in food stamp funding as well as eligibility requirements for small business aid, and whether to include a bevy of business tax breaks in the package.
After the late-Saturday compromise on the Fed, “we can begin closing out the rest of the package to deliver much-needed relief to families, workers, and businesses,” Doug Andres, spokesman for Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, said in a statement early Sunday. -- Erik Wasson
Relief Deal Close as Lawmakers End Fed Impasse (12:40 a.m.)
Democrats and Republicans agreed on a compromise on the future of Fed emergency lending facilities, clearing a path for a deal on a broader pandemic relief plan that could be voted on as soon as Sunday.
Republican Senator Pat Toomey sought to limit emergency Fed lending programs that were established as part of the stimulus passed by Congress in March. Democrats objected to the language he proposed, saying it would constrain the Fed and the incoming Biden administration from responding to any future economic calamity.
Several of the facilities in question were backed with funds appropriated by Congress in the March Cares Act, including support for small and medium-sized borrowers, municipalities and corporate bond issuers.
The compromise was negotiated between Toomey and Schumer. Under the deal, the remaining $429 billion in the disputed emergency facilities would be used to offset the latest relief bill. The facilities would be closed and couldn’t be duplicated without congressional approval, according to a Republican official. A Democratic aide said the deal wouldn’t prohibit establishing such emergency facilities in the future. -- Laura Litvan
Lawmakers Seek Fed Compromise to Unlock Deal (5:41 p.m.)
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Toomey have been meeting face-to-face Saturday to try to overcome a dispute about the Fed’s emergency lending programs.
Texas Republican John Cornyn said the disagreement can be resolved “we’re almost there” and a deal could come together Sunday morning. Illinois Democratic Senator Dick Durbin said he didn’t think a deal could be pulled together before Sunday.
Utah Republican Mitt Romney, who participated in a meeting with Schumer and Toomey, said he doesn’t know “whether they will be able to bridge the divide.”
“My view is that the Fed’s capacities should be returned to the condition they were in prior to the Cares Act,” Romney said, referring to the stimulus package passed in March. “But if we’re going to have major reforms to the Fed, this is not the time for that.”
Former Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said the central bank’s ability to respond to damaging disruptions in credit markets must “not be circumscribed.”
It is “vital that the Federal Reserve’s ability to respond promptly to damaging disruptions in credit markets not be circumscribed,” Bernanke said in a statement reported by the Associated Press. “The relief act should ensure, at least, that the Federal Reserve’s emergency lending authorities, as they stood before the passage of the CARES Act (in March), remain fully intact and available to respond to future crises.”
Key GOP Senator Says Relief Deal Possible (4:10 p.m.)
Republican Senator Pat Toomey, whose proposal to limit Federal Reserve emergency facilities has been adamantly opposed by Democrats, said he expects a compromise can be found to clear the way for a pandemic relief agreement.
”I think that we should be able to get a deal done,” Toomey said after leaving a meeting with Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer and others. “I don’t know what the time frame is.”
Lawmakers in both parties are trying to pull together a package of aid to the economy over the next 24 hours, aiming for a vote in the House as soon as Sunday followed by the Senate. -- Laura Litvan and Erik Wasson
GOP Holding Firm on Rolling Back Fed Facilities (3:10 p.m.)
Senate Republicans say they are holding firm on a proposal to limit the Federal Reserves emergency lending powers, the main remaining dispute with Democrats that has hung up an agreement on a pandemic relief package.
Toomey, of Pennsylvania, said on the Senate floor said the March stimulus package approved by Congress authorized the emergency lending facilities and mandated they end on Dec. 31. He said the facilities worked “remarkably” well in giving confidence in financial markets when the economy was reeling in the spring but are no longer needed.
“I have the support of Senator McConnell on this and overwhelming support in the Republican Congress,” Toomey told reporters.
Democrats contend Toomey’s plan would hamstring the incoming Biden administration in responding to an economic downturn. Toomey denied that and accused Democrats of seeking “to morph these facilities” into something never intended in order to create a way to “to bail out irresponsible states.”
Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts said Toomey’s proposal would “take away long-existing authority from the Fed to deal with this crisis. The Fed needs all its tools going forward. That’s true in the Trump administration and it will be true in the Biden administration.”
Toomey said he was willing to talk to Democrats about the language of his proposal to clarify it applies to pandemic era programs. Most other issues in the negotiations of another aid package have been settled, according to lawmakers on both sides. -- Laura Litvan and Erik Wasson
Pelosi Says GOP Fed Limits Still Biggest Hurdle (1:40 p.m.)
The biggest obstacle to a pandemic relief deal remains a Republican proposal to constrain the Federal Reserve’s crisis lending programs, Speaker Nancy Pelosi told House Democrats on a call, according to a person familiar with the discussion.
Pelosi said the proposal advocated by Republican Senator Pat Toomey would restrict options of the incoming Biden administration and the Fed in responding to an economic downturn. She said she is waiting to hear Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s response to a proposed compromise, according to the person, who asked to anonymity to provide details of the private call.
Toomey, backed by other Republicans, wants a provision in the relief bill that would bar the Fed from restarting five emergency lending programs that expire at the end of the year, or create similar ones going forward. Democrats argue those restrictions are too broad. The issue is one of the main subjects of a call that Mnuchin is holding with Republicans. -- Billy House
Virus Relief Talks Drag on With Sunday Deadline (6 a.m.)
Republicans and Democrats spent much of last week exchanging proposals to resolve their final disagreements over the virus relief package, and leaders of both parties have said they are making progress.
South Dakota Senator John Thune, the chamber’s second-ranking Republican, characterized the negotiation as part of the normal -- but long -- process to write important legislation.
“People are anxious to get this done,“ Thune said Friday. “But it’s just arduous work.”
The biggest dispute Friday was over a provision requested by Senator Pat Toomey, a Pennsylvania Republican, that would bar the Fed from restarting five emergency lending programs that expire at the end of the year, or create similar ones going forward. Democrats said this was a political act designed to limit the incoming Biden administration’s ability to respond to future crises.
Talks were also hung up on Democratic request to match 100% of Federal Emergency Management Agency payouts for the pandemic, which Republicans warned could be a back door to send $90 billion to states and local governments in the future. There was also a question of whether the deal would need to extend an existing eviction moratorium in addition to providing funds for rental assistance.
Since the relief bill will be attached to regular government spending, both the House and Senate will have to pass the combined package in time for President Donald Trump to sign it into law before midnight Sunday. That’s when the latest temporary funding measure is set to expire.
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