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Congress closes in on COVID-19 relief, funding deal

by JORDAIN CARNEY | Story Source    Wednesday December 16, 2020 - 10:47 PM
PANDEMIC
* Covid-19 *
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© Greg Nash
Congressional leaders said Tuesday night they are making progress on a sweeping deal to fund the government and provide coronavirus relief but hadn't yet clinched an agreement.

The top four congressional leaders met twice Tuesday as they race the clock to try to fund the government by Friday and break a months-long stalemate to provide more coronavirus aid.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told reporters that they were "close" to a deal, but didn't say if he thought it could be reached Tuesday.

"I think it's going really well," McCarthy said as he left Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-Ky.) office.

McConnell told reporters as he was leaving the Capitol for the night that he was "optimistic" they would reach an agreement "soon." He declined to say if that would be on Tuesday.

"We're making significant progress and I'm optimistic that we're gonna be able to complete an understanding sometime soon," McConnell told reporters.

"Everybody wants to get a final agreement as soon as possible. We all believe the country needs it. And I think we're getting closer and closer," he added.

Congressional leaders aren't expected to meet again for a third time on Tuesday with staff instead exchanging legislative proposals.

The two Republican leaders met with Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) initially on Tuesday afternoon, before briefly breaking and reconvening at 7:30 p.m.

Asked as he was leaving the building for the night if agreed with the GOP assertion that they were close, Schumer replied that they were "closer."

"We're exchanging paper and ideas back and forth, making progress and hopefully we can come to an agreement soon," Schumer said. "I think there is a genuine desire to come to an agreement by all four parties."

The inability for the top four congressional leaders, plus Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, to clinch a deal on Tuesday comes after staffers were already indicating that a mammoth government funding deal was likely slipping to Wednesday.

Leadership is hoping to attach some coronavirus relief to an omnibus funding bill, which would keep the government open until Oct. 1.

Congress is going down to the wire on the government funding negotiations. Congress has until the end of Friday to pass a bill to fund the government or have a shutdown going into the holidays.

Lawmakers are hoping to file text of a mammoth funding deal on Wednesday, after initially aiming to release it on Tuesday.

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