Congress' weekend COVID relief talks hit obstacle

MCCONNELL: “We need to conclude our talks, draft legislation and land this plan.”

Members of the U.S. Congress on Saturday scrambled to overcome hurdles, and complete a $900 billion coronavirus aid bill for Americans and businesses struggling from the economic fallout of the pandemic.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell:

“The American people cannot feed their families or pay their bills with Congress’ good faith discussions. They need us to act.”

The weekend talks came after President Donald Trump on Friday signed into law a two-day stopgap extension of existing federal funds to avoid a midnight government shutdown.

After months of partisan finger-pointing and inaction - both Republicans and Democrats said the last major sticking point was a Republican-led push to rein in Federal Reserve lending programs.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, in a rare Saturday session, explained why he was against the move, spearheaded by Senator Pat Toomey:

“Senator Toomey’s new proposal would essentially prohibit the Treasury and the Fed to setting up new emergency lending facilities moving forward, greatly reducing their ability to respond to economic crisis. Again, this is something that only materialized in the past few days and would leave the Treasury and the Fed with less authority than it had even prior to the pandemic.”

Members of Congress are under intense pressure to finish the largest relief package since the early weeks of the pandemic.

Adding urgency to calls for action are the looming Christmas holiday and a government shutdown possibly at midnight on Sunday.

Lawmakers were not sure exactly when a deal would be announced, but no vote was expected before Sunday afternoon.