Leaders on Capitol Hill are facing growing pressure to lock down a long-awaited $900 billion pandemic relief deal with lawmakers remaining in Washington over the weekend as negotiations continue to finalize an agreement.



a close up of Nancy Pelosi et al. looking at the camera


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A government shutdown was narrowly averted on Friday evening after the House and Senate approved a two-day extension of government funding, securing additional time for stimulus talks. But congressional leaders are now up against another rapidly approaching deadline, with funding on track to expire Sunday evening.

Leadership is planning to pass a stimulus deal alongside a $1.4 trillion government funding package for a new fiscal year, but a series of outstanding policy disputes has created last-minute holdups.

With the clock ticking, rank-and-file members have become increasingly frustrated with the process, after leaders have signaled for days in a row that a deal is imminent, and with how little information has been released publicly about the details of such a significant bill that they expect to vote on soon.

Asked if leadership is getting closer to a relief deal, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters Friday evening, “Yeah, we’ve been close for a while now and we still are.”

Video: Sanders on what’s missing in current stimulus proposal (CNN)

Sanders on what’s missing in current stimulus proposal

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The Kentucky Republican said “sure hope so” when asked whether they would have a deal by this weekend.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer announced on Friday that the next votes in the House would not occur before 1 p.m. E.T. on Sunday, meaning that lawmakers will be once again backed up against a government funding deadline.

“We are hopeful they will reach agreement in the near future, they have not reached one yet, there are still some significant issues outstanding,” Hoyer said of the current status of talks.

The relief deal, which could have a price tag of close to $900 billion, is expected to include money for vaccine distribution and schools, jobless benefits of $300 per week, roughly $330 billion for small business loans, and a new round of stimulus checks, which could be set at around $600 per individual under a certain income threshold — half the amount given under the March stimulus law.

Vermont independent Sen. Bernie Sanders and GOP Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri have been pushing for a stimulus check of $1,200 for individuals.

Sanders warned Friday that he would not allow an omnibus spending package to pass the Senate if it does not include “substantial direct payments” for individuals and families. Asked by CNN if he considers $600 checks “substantial,” he refused to say. “I’ve said what I said,” Sanders replied.

Another issue that has cropped up is that Democrats contend that “an agreement was in sight” until Republicans pushed a provision by Sen. Pat Toomey to rein in the Federal Reserve’s emergency lending authority, according to a senior Democratic aide. Democrats argue it’s intended to constrain the Biden administration’s efforts to respond to the crisis.

Toomey, a Pennsylvania Republican, denies that he’s trying to constrain the Biden administration and argues these programs were meant to wind down at year’s end.

Other outstanding issues include whether there should be further restrictions on eligibility for the one-time checks and whether and how long to extend the eviction moratorium, as some Republicans argue that providing rental assistance could be sufficient, but Democrats disagree.

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