Congress stands able to vote on the COVID bailout package deal following the Fed compromise

© Reuters. The dome of the US Capitol can be seen in Washington at night

By David Lawder

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Congress appeared ready to vote on a $ 900 billion coronavirus aid package on Sunday after Senators reached a nightly compromise to overcome one of the final hurdles, an argument to the Federal Reserve's pandemic lending agencies.

Senate Democratic chairman Chuck Schumer told reporters at the U.S. Capitol late Saturday, "If things continue on this path and nothing stands in the way, we can vote tomorrow."

Congressional leaders plan to extend the coronavirus relief package, which includes $ 600 direct payments to individuals and a weekly unemployment benefit supplement of $ 300, to a $ 1.4 trillion spending bill by September 2021 to fund government programs to attach. A 48-hour extension of funding will expire at midnight on Sunday (0500 GMT Monday), after which the government would close.

Senator Pat Toomey, a Republican from Pennsylvania, had insisted on language that would guarantee the central bank would not be able to extend emergency loan programs for small businesses, as well as state and local governments, after December 31 if they were COVID-19 under the CARES Act – Law expire passed in March.

Republicans had said the programs were unnecessary state interference in the private sector that the Fed is politicizing. They accused the Democrats of wanting to extend it until 2021 to provide unchecked funding for state and local governments controlled by members of their party.

Democrats, in turn, accused Republicans of attempting to tie the hands of the Fed in an attempt to limit Democratic President-elect Joe Biden's ability to fuel the ailing economy after taking office on Jan. 20.

Steve Kelly, spokesman for Toomey, said the senator's agreement with Schumer "suspends unused CARES Act funds of more than $ 429 billion, terminates CARES Act credit facilities for good by December 31, 2020 restart these facilities and prohibit their reproduction without Congress approval. "

However, a senior Democratic adviser said Toomey had agreed to "drop the broad language in his proposal that would have prevented the Fed chairman from setting up similar facilities in the future."

The aide said the compromise language was finalized and a final deal on the COVID package "is much closer".

The Senate adjourned a rare Saturday session with a call from Republican Leader Mitch McConnell to avoid last-minute disagreements that could delay new funding for Americans and small businesses.

"The American people cannot feed their families with the bona fide debates of Congress or pay their bills. They need us to act," McConnell said in the Senate. "We have to finalize our talks, draft laws and implement this plan."

In the eleven months since the first cases of the new coronavirus were documented in the US, COVID-19 has killed 311,000 Americans, by far the most in the world, and made millions of people unemployed, with unemployment rising. Economists say growth is likely to remain sluggish until vaccines become widespread by mid-2021.

"We're within reach," Democratic House spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi told members of her party in a phone call discussing the negotiations on Saturday, according to one person who answered the call.

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