Sen. Thune: Getting a COVID-19 relief deal Friday would be ‘triumph of hope over experience’

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Congress’ last-minute push to pass bipartisan coronavirus aid could tip into next week, as the looming threat of a government shutdown remains a real possibility with the Friday midnight deadline fast approaching.

Senate Majority Whip John Thune said lawmakers are going to attempt to push a short-term continuing resolution, potentially 48 hours, through Congress Friday night. However, getting it through both chambers in time will be a “heavy lift.”

He has low expectations that a relief deal will be announced on Friday, saying it would be a “that would be a triumph of hope over experience” to get that done.

“I was thinking best case scenario of getting something voted on was going probably to be Sunday but it may be later than that,” the South Dakota Republican said. “I’m hoping… if people are opposed to voice voting it or doing it by [unanimous] consent that we’ll allow it at least to be voted on so we don’t have to go into any kind of a temporary shutdown.”

Congressional leaders were nearing a roughly $900 billion deal earlier this week, that was set to include another, limited, round of direct stimulus payments to individuals and families, aid to small businesses, and extended boosted unemployment benefits.

The relief agreement is expected to be paired with a massive, must-pass $1.4 trillion government funding package.

But a handful of issues continue to hold up a final agreement.

One of the largest sticking points is a push from Republicans to restrict the Federal Reserve emergency lending program, established in the first major stimulus package, and ensure that the programs end by December 31.

Democrats argue the language is an attempt to tie President-elect Joseph R. Biden’s hands when he begins his term next year.

Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, who is leading the charge, denied the accusation and instead argued that the programs were always designed to be short-term and the efforts to ensure these programs ended before the end of the year began long before the November election.

There are also still debates over the details of other provisions, such as Democrats’ attempts to secure aid for state and local governments, a massive thorny issue for Republicans.

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