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McConnell says coronavirus-aid deal done, but no votes until Monday

After days of frenetic talks and only hours ahead of a government shutdown, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said late Sunday a bipartisan deal had been reached on an almost $900 billion coronavirus relief package.

“Moments ago, in consultation with our committees, the four leaders of the Senate and the House finalized an agreement,” McConnell said on the Senate floor.

“Make no mistake about it, this agreement is far from perfect. But it will deliver emergency relief to a nation in the throes of a genuine emergency,” said Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer.

No votes are expected on the package until Monday, though, as McConnell noted its text was still being finalized. The House would vote first and its only vote Sunday was to be on a one-day stopgap government funding bill.

The stimulus bill is expected to include the revival or extension of several parts of the CARES Act passed in March. Direct payments to individuals of $600, half the amount of spring payments, would be included, as well as an extension of pandemic-related jobless benefits and a revival of a federal add-on jobless payment, this time of around $300 for 10 weeks. The Paycheck Protection Program that gave forgivable loans to small businesses would also be revived.

McConnell said the package would also include “huge sums” of money to help with COVD-19 vaccine distribution as well as “billions and billions” of dollars to get students back to school safely.

Congress gave itself through Sunday to reach a new deal by extending the government’s funding authority for another two days late Friday. Passing another short-term funding bill tonight would give them until midnight Monday to finish things up. The idea is to graft the fiscal stimulus package of around $900 billion onto a $1.4 trillion bill to fund government operations through 2021, for a resulting in an overall $2.3 trillion total package.

The announcement of an agreement Sunday was in stark contrast with Saturday, when a disagreement over restricting the Fed’s emergency lending powers appeared to be a major roadblock.

Sen. Pat Toomey, the Pennsylvania Republican who had pushed for the language to prohibit restarting central bank loan programs started under the March CARES Act without congressional approval, said he was satisfied with a compromise worked out with Democrats.

Schumer said the agreement on the Fed language was central to getting a bill done.

“For now, I’m happy to report we have surmounted the final largest hurdle and an ending is in sight,” he said.

President Donald Trump tweeted encouragement to lawmakers to finish the deal early Sunday morning, even as he suggested a higher direct payment amount.

“GET IT DONE, and give them more money in direct payments,” he tweeted a little after midnight.

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