Congress is ironing out coronavirus relief funds in conjunction with a government funding package as the Friday deadline looms.
With government funding set to expire at midnight on Friday, plans to avoid a shutdown remain in flux as congressional negotiators seek to strike a twin set of 11th hour deals.
Lawmakers suggested they may require yet another stopgap funding bill as they seek to iron out the final details of both an omnibus appropriations measure and coronavirus relief funds. The third continuing resolution of fiscal 2021 would likely be the shortest yet, with congressional leaders suggesting it could last as little as two days.
Both Democrats and Republicans said they were close to reaching an agreement on both measures, though the Friday deadline to avoid a shutdown was looming over the talks. Congress passed a one-week CR last week, hoping it would buy enough time to pass line-by-line spending levels for every agency in government.
A stimulus package agreement has proven elusive, even as negotiators appear to agree on key topics including direct payments to Americans and leaving out more contentious elements such as liability protections for businesses. Still, a number of sticking points remain on both the relief funds—for which lawmakers are using a bipartisan $900 billion proposal as a framework—and the omnibus. Leadership met late into Wednesday night and Thursday morning, saying they continued to make progress toward compromise legislation.
“None of the remaining hurdles cannot be overcome,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said on the Senate floor Thursday. “Everyone is committed to achieving a result and we will not leave until we get the job done.”
The need to stick around while avoiding a shutdown was a common refrain in the Capitol on Thursday, where lawmakers reluctantly indicated another stopgap might be necessary.
“For the information of all Senators, we're going to stay right here, right here, until we are finished even if that means working through the weekend, which is highly likely,” McConnell said. "And if we need to further extend the Friday funding deadline before final legislation can pass in both chambers, I hope we'll extend it for a very, very short, short window of time."
While the leaders were optimistic they could stave off a shutdown, they suggested they would require weekend work to put the final touches on their bills. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has also participated in negotiations on behalf of the White House as final details on both a stimulus package and the omnibus continued to be discussed.