WASHINGTON: Top congressional lawmakers struck a late-night agreement on the last major obstacle to a COVID-19 economic relief package costing nearly US$1 trillion, clearing the way for votes as early as Sunday (Dec 20).
A Democratic aide said in an email that an agreement had been reached late Saturday and that compromise language was being finalised to seal a deal to be unveiled on Sunday.
The breakthrough involved a fight over Federal Reserve emergency powers that was defused by an odd couple: The Senate’s top Democrat and a senior conservative Republican.
“We’re getting very close, very close," Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY, said earlier Saturday as he spent much of the day going back and forth with GOP Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania. Toomey had been pressing a provision to close down Fed lending facilities that Democrats and the White House said was too broadly worded and would have tied the hands of the incoming Biden administration.
The COVID-19 legislation has been held up after months of disfunction, posturing and bad faith, but talks turned serious in December as lawmakers on both sides finally faced the deadline of acting before exiting Washington for Christmas.