Mitch McConnell: COVID-19 relief deal could be reached in ‘a matter of hours’

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Sunday that a coronavirus deal could be finalized within “a matter of hours.”

“We’re whittling down the remaining differences. I believe I can speak for all sides when I say I hope and expect to have a final agreement nailed down in a matter of hours,” Mr. McConnell, Kentucky Republican, said.

Earlier on Sunday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, was also optimistic.

“I think we’re close, we’re very close. But we want to have members have enough time to review it all,” she told reporters.

Lawmakers have hours to try and get the roughly $900 billion coronavirus relief deal — and more than a trillion in government funding — through both chambers before Sunday’s midnight deadline.

Leadership has been negotiating since last week to iron out the last few remaining details, and continue to work on Sunday. No final version of the deal has been announced or any text released.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer’s office informed House members to be prepared for votes on a package Sunday, but warned votes could go late into the night.

Other lawmakers, however, are unsure if the massive package can get through both chambers in time, prompting discussion of possibly needed another short-term funding measure.

“I hear the text may not even be available until later on and the House would have to vote on it first. So I think it’s doubtful, would be my guess,” Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, said.

One of the last major hurdles — a fight over certain Federal Reserve lending programs — was ironed out late Saturday evening.

Republicans, led by Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, wanted to ensure a handful of emergency Fed lending programs established in March ended, as intended, in December. They wanted to ensure Congress had the authority to approve emergency loans and that the programs didn’t come slush funds in the future.

Democrats, however, were concerned that the provision was too broad and could tie President-elect Joesph R. Biden’s hands.

Mr. Toomey told reporters on Sunday that he agreed to narrow his provision regarding similar programs in the future, but also secured the end of four Fed credit facilities: the Primary Market Corporate Credit Facility, the Secondary Market Corporate Credit Facility, the Main Street Lending Program and the Municipal Credit Facility.

“We did narrow it relative to the language of ‘similar to’ because Democrats made a fair point. That was too broad, and that might have captured facilities that we didn’t intend to capture. Yes, it was narrowed,” he said.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer touted that compromise as a major win for Democrats.

“He dropped his dangerous language tying the Fed’s hands to respond to crises. Resolving this issue successfully now allows us to move into passing aid for Americans, extend unemployment insurance, deliver survival checks and more,” the New York Democrat tweeted.

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