WASHINGTON – Talks in Congress over a COVID-19 stimulus bill are likely to stretch into this weekend as lawmakers remain at an impasse and prepare to buy themselves a few more days of negotiations.
House Democrats filed legislation Friday afternoon to fund the government for two days and hoped to pass it later in the evening. Lawmakers face a Friday night shutdown deadline as they try to finish negotiations on both a stimulus deal and a larger government funding package.
Republicans and Democrats have been optimistic a stimulus and funding deal could be reached this week after months of impasse. Congressional leaders have been holding daily meetings to negotiate an agreement to restore lapsed benefits, provide funds for vaccine distribution and development, and send out another round of stimulus checks to Americans struggling as a result of the pandemic.
But as negotiations dragged on, and debates flared over restrictions on Federal Reserve lending authority, a deal remains elusive.
Asked about the possibility of a Friday deal, Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., the second-ranking Senate Republican, told reporters it would be “a triumph of hope over experience” for that to happen.
But he expressed some skepticism about doing another short-term spending bill. “There are lots of individual senators and I think there are members on both sides who are resistant to the idea of doing another CR,” Thune said, referring to the short-term spending bill.
Lawmakers hope to attach any stimulus legislation to comprehensive government funding legislation, likely the last major bill to pass Congress this year.
Both the House and Senate must pass the short-term funding bill, and President Donald Trump must sign it in order for it to become law.
This short-term extension of government funding would be the second time Congress has punted a shutdown deadline this month. Government funding was set to lapse last Friday, but Congress passed a short-term bill extending funding for one week to give lawmakers more time.