Congress passes regulation to forestall the federal government from closing for 2 days and sends it to Trump


U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi leaves a meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on December 18, 2020.

Saul Loeb | AFP | Getty Images

Congress on Friday voted to prevent the government from closing for two days and sent a temporary funding measure to President Donald Trump.

Federal funding will expire at 12:01 p.m. CET on Saturday if Washington does not approve an expense bill. The stopgap measure would keep the government going until 12:01 p.m. ET on Sunday morning while leaders of Congress attempt to finalize a year-round funding and coronavirus relief package.

Trump will have hours to sign the bill before state funds run out.

Once Trump approves the measure, Congress will again find itself in a tight deadline. The House will meet again on Sunday at 12:00 PM ET and will vote no earlier than 1:00 PM. The Senate is due to return on Saturday at 11 a.m. ET and is expected to deal with nominations.

Senators, including independent Vermont-based Bernie Sanders and Missouri Republican Josh Hawley, had warned they might delay approving an spending bill as they campaign for leadership to include a direct payment of $ 1,200 in a pandemic relief package. None of the legislators followed the warning.

Before the Senate unanimously passed the spending bill, Sanders said he would object to "any attempt" by the chamber to pass a full-year spending plan without also approving a pandemic relief package that includes "significant direct payments."

Hawley previously tweeted that he would not block the legislation after top Republicans reassured him that a definitive aid deal would include "direct aid to working people." Lawmakers are expected to include $ 600 in payments, compared to the $ 1,200 checks approved under the CARES Act in March.

The house first tried to unanimously pass the financing law on Friday. Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, however, opposed and forced a full vote.

The move delayed the passage of the law by more than an hour as Congress worked on a tight schedule to exceed the shutdown deadline. The House agreed with 320-60 votes.

For the second time this month, lawmakers are aiming to give themselves more time to pack a year-round spending bill and money to kickstart the healthcare system and economy following a relentless coronavirus outbreak. They already approved a week-long extension that kept the light on until Friday.

The leaders of Congress have been saying for days that they are close to a much-needed pandemic relief deal. However, they failed to iron out the final details of a $ 900 billion package.

Millions of Americans await help as the virus overwhelms hospitals and healthcare workers. Covid-19 is now killing thousands of Americans every week.

New economic restrictions to contain the outbreak have exacerbated the pain for those who are already struggling to afford food and housing.

A Republican-backed proposal to limit the Federal Reserve's emergency lending power is now the biggest hurdle to a deal. Democrats say the move would affect President-elect Joe Biden's ability to respond to the ongoing economic crisis after he ruled on Jan. 20 has taken office.

In addition to the direct payments, the development plan would include an unemployment benefit of $ 300 per week. This would prolong an expansion of unemployment benefits during the pandemic season, which would lose 12 million people the day after Christmas.

It is currently unclear how the proposal would deal with a federal eviction moratorium. The provision expires at the end of the year and can leave millions of people vulnerable to eviction.

The package would put at least $ 300 billion in aid to small businesses. It would include money for distribution and testing of Covid-19 vaccines, as well as facilities for hospitals.

It would also channel funds to schools that had to adapt to stay open or go virtual during the pandemic.

The bill does not address government and local support or corporate liability protection. These questions divided Democratic and Republican leaders.

Democrats and many ordinary GOP lawmakers, as well as non-partisan governors, supported state and local aid as needed to get first responder jobs and help officials contain the pandemic. The GOP argued that immunity would protect small businesses from frivolous litigation.

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Steven Gregory