Leaders Cite Progress in Talks, No Deal Yet: Congress Update

The top congressional leaders from both parties are negotiating the terms of a Covid-19 relief package that they hope to attach to crucial government spending legislation and pass by the end of the week.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy met for several hours Tuesday night, reporting progress in the talks but with no agreement in hand.

Other Developments:

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  • Covid-19 Relief Plan Splits Key Aid, Most Contentious Items

Leaders Cite Progress in Talks But No Deal Yet (2:00 a.m.)

Pelosi, Schumer, McConnell and McCarthy held two rounds of extended negotiations at the Capitol on Tuesday, trying to reach agreement for a package of aid for businesses and workers struggling through the pandemic’s economic fallout.

“We’re making significant progress and I’m optimistic that we’re gonna be able to complete an understanding sometime soon,” McConnell said as he left the Capitol late Tuesday night. “Everybody wants to get a final agreement as soon as possible.”

Schumer also said the exchanges had brought progress and “there is a genuine desire to come to an agreement by all four parties.”that all four negotiators have “a genuine desire to come to an agreement.”

The four leaders have been trying to finalize coronavirus aid to attach to the spending bills before funding for federal agencies runs out on Friday at midnight. Both sides have vowed that Congress won’t recess for the holidays without getting both done.

There is broad agreement on the package that would include vaccine funding, aid to small businesses, expanded unemployment benefits and assistance for education, among other provisions.

There’s still no word whether Pelosi and Schumer have accepted the principle of setting aside the two most contentious issues in the Covid-19 relief proposal — aid for state and local authorities that Democrats want and a Covid-19 related liability shield that Republicans are seeking. McConnell has suggested leaving those for the next round of stimulus talks after President-elect Joe Biden takes office. — Erik Wasson

Coming up:

Lawmakers in the House and Senate are expected to unveil a $1.4 trillion omnibus spending bill that wraps together the 12 annual appropriations measures that provide U.S. agencies with their operating budgets through end of fiscal 2021 on Sept. 30. The legislation must be passed by the House and Senate and signed into law this week to avert a Saturday government shutdown.

— With assistance by Erik Wasson, and Laura Litvan

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