Congress faces the threat of another government shutdown with stimulus negotiations likely to slip into the weekend


schumer pelosi mcconnell hoyer mccarthy
From left to right: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. Erin Schaff/AP
  • Another government shutdown looms after lawmakers failed to strike a deal on both a government funding bill and a economic relief package.

  • A number of policy disagreements continue to crop up, with one leading GOP senator describing the talks as “whack-a-mole.”

  • Hangups appear to include stimulus checks, federal aid to states through a FEMA program, and Federal Reserve lending programs.

  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Last Friday, Congress bought itself an extra week to negotiate a federal rescue package in tandem with a broader government spending bill to fund federal agencies into next year.

A week has passed and lawmakers again face the threat of a government shutdown later this evening. Both chambers must pass another stopgap spending bill, but it is unclear whether they would be able to do so before the clock strikes midnight. 

Several Republican senators said passage of a “continuing resolution” extending government funding for up to 48 hours was possible on Thursday. A lapse in funding may have no impact on agency operations if Congress resolves their impasse over the weekend. However, risks are heightened if a shutdown spills into next week as a vaccine is rolled out to many parts of the country, a task that will be more difficult if the governmetn is unable to assist in the effort.

Congressional leaders are rushing to strike a deal on a roughly $900 billion aid package in only a few days. It’s expected to funnel money to individuals and small businesses among other recipients. However, they are struggling to close policy disagreements which have hobbled negotiations for several months. The talks appear likely to slip into the weekend.

“It’s a little bit of whack-a-mole, you know, whack it here and something else pops up,” Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, the second-ranked Republican, told reporters on Capitol Hill late Thursday. “There’s a lot of interaction between the moving parts of all this, and getting it all lined up at the same time is proving to be pretty hard.”

The hangups appear to include the details around a fresh round of stimulus payments for Americans, emergency aid to states and municipalities, and the Federal Reserve’s lending powers. But Congressional leaders are still citing continued progress in the talks.

During a speech on the Senate floor on Friday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he was “even more optimistic right now than I was last night” about reaching an agreement.

Congress is running up against more deadlines that could have more dire implications for many Americans if it fails to strike a deal, get President Donald Trump’s signature and enact it into law soon. Around 14 million people are threatened with the loss of unemployment aid within two weeks if certain federal programs are not renewed. 

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