Congress stuck on Federal Reserve fight as COVID-19 relief deal stalls

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Lawmakers are stuck over the final details of coronavirus relief Saturday, with a last-minute fight over the Federal Reserve’s emergency lending powers.

Without a final deal, Congress is running up against the clock once again to pass not only pandemic relief but also a massive government funding package.

At the heart of the partisan standoff is Sen. Pat Toomey’s push to ensure several of the Fed’s emergency lending programs, established in March, end at the end of December. The Pennsylvania Republican’s provision would also prohibit the central bank from re-creating similar programs without congressional approval.

The vast majority of the GOP party has rallied around Mr. Toomey’s provision. Their concern is that without following through on the original intention of March’s CARES act the lending programs could essentially become a slush fund in the future.

Democrats, however, argue the programs are still needed to help stimulate the economy and warn that it could tie President-elect Joseph R. Biden’s hands come next year.

Mr. Toomey met with Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, earlier as they attempted to work out an agreement.

Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, also noted that there are a handful of other small details, such as the deductibility of Paycheck Protection Program grants, are making progress.

Though not all are optimistic that Congress will actually be able to announce a deal Saturday evening.

“It won’t be tonight. We’ve got one vote and then we’re leaving,” Sen. Dick Durbin, Illinois Democrat, said, noting they’ll be back Sunday and he hopes to not need another stopgap funding measure.

Congress passed a two-day funding extension Friday evening to give themselves more time to finalize and get a deal to President Trump’s desk.

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