US Congress Set to Miss Deadline for Adopting Funding Bill Due to Arguments Over Pandemic Relief

The Democrats and the GOP have been trying to negotiate a second round of relief for families and businesses affected by the pandemic since the end of summer, but have so far failed to reach common ground.

US members of Congress are likely to miss the deadline to pass a funding bill and avert an imminent government shutdown, several lawmakers have shared. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer warned representatives and senators from their parties that they might have to stay over the weekend to continue negotiations and possibly vote for a bill.

The main body of the funding bill has been successfully negotiated, McConnell and Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby confirmed. However, differences remain over the parameters of the coronavirus relief part of the document. McConnell suggested that a final deal is “close”; however, other lawmakers indicate several stumbling blocks on the path to it.

The key point of concern is that spending might exceed the $900 billion planned for the relief efforts. GOP lawmakers are trying to limit the funding that can be acquired via the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which they fear could be used by the Democrats as a backdoor for additional spending. Arguments are also continuing over the size of the relief cheques for US citizens and the margin of income when the payments should be made. Republican Senator John Thune seeks to lower the margin below the current level of $75,000 and limit the cheques to $600, while Democrat Bernie Sanders wants to keep the margin and boost the payments to April’s level of $1,200 per person.

Some lawmakers are considering passing a stopgap bill to provide temporary funding and avoid a government shutdown should no agreement be reached by Monday. However, not all congresspeople agree with this. Senator Thune has threatened to sabotage a stopgap bill should no broader agreement be achieved over the weekend.

The coronavirus relief efforts are tied to the US funding bill, meaning that without finding common ground on the relief efforts, members of Congress won’t be able to provide sustainable funding for the government. They have been trying to find a compromise since the end of summer, but so far the CARES Act adopted in April has been the only economic help Washington has managed to negotiate and provide to its citizens and businesses, who are struggling to stay afloat amid a drop in economic activity in the country caused by the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdowns. The new round of relief has become an increasingly pressing issue, as some states have started going into a new round of lockdowns amid a second wave of infections, with the number of cases surging over the past few months.


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