Congress continues to clash over coronavirus relief as shutdown threat looms

Washington-DC

WASHINGTON, DC (NEXSTAR) — Congress is planning to work through the weekend on the next round of coronavirus relief.

While a deal is close between House and Senate leadership on a $900 billion package, senators say negotiations still continue over dollar amounts and policy priorities.

“We’re gonna stay right here, right here until we are finished,” said Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY.

“None of the remaining hurdles cannot be overcome,” said Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY.

In speeches on the Senate floor Thursday, McConnell and Schumer said they are working with House leadership to put the final touches on the next coronavirus relief bill, which Schumer called the largest in history besides the CARES Act.

“The senators have been told to stay in town over the weekend,” said Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-LA.

Cassidy is part of the bipartisan group that revived the talks. The leadership’s current $900 billion relief proposal includes money for small businesses, unemployment benefits and another round of smaller stimulus checks. It notably does not include two main sticking points: state and local funds, and liability protections.

“If it’s built upon the things we worked on on our bipartisan agreement, I feel pretty good about it,” Cassidy said.

Congressional leaders are still working out the text of the bill, but it is also expected to include more money for schools, renters and vaccine distribution.

Lawmakers plan to tack on the emergency relief to a larger government funding bill. Cassidy said while negotiations are ongoing, that larger bill may also include an end to surprise medical billing.

“Somebody at the hospital, you never even saw them, but they billed you thousands of dollars,” Cassidy said. “They were out of network. We need to address that.”

Following expected passage in the House, Cassidy predicts a potential Senate vote on a package early next week.

“The closer we get to Christmas, I think the more likely a deal gets done,” he said.  

Lawmakers are debating whether to pass another temporary bill to fund the government to give themselves more time to seal a deal on coronavirus relief. If they do not pass a continuing resolution Friday, the government would shut down until an ultimate agreement on pandemic funds and federal spending is reached.

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