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Congress eyes one-week stopgap, buying time for Covid relief talks before shutdown

Bipartisan talks continue on virus aid and funding the government.
Stimulus Optimism Grows As GOP Lawmakers Warm To Bipartisan Plan
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., center, wears a mask at the Capitol on Friday.Stefani Reynolds / Bloomberg via Getty Images

WASHINGTON — Congress wants an extra week to negotiate government funding legislation and a coronavirus relief bill, according to lawmakers and aides familiar with negotiations.

The House is eying a vote Wednesday on a one-week continuing resolution to prevent a government shutdown, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said Monday.

It would move the Dec. 11 government funding deadline to Dec. 18, one week before Christmas.

The deadline extension will allow for another week of talks to find bipartisan agreement on an "omnibus" spending bill to keep the government open into next year. It will also allow for another week of negotiations on another round of Covid-19 relief, which could include unemployment benefits.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said he expects that the Senate will also take up a one-week stopgap bill in the hope of completing a full-year government funding package by the end of next week.

"I’m optimistic we're going to get somewhere, but I have no report at the moment about how," McConnell told reporters in the Capitol on Monday.

In the government funding bill, money for President Donald Trump's border wall is a major sticking point again. Democrats don't want the Biden administration to have to continue to build the wall, multiple sources say.

There is also disagreement over police reform provisions, as well as environmental policy, a source said.

Congressional leaders have said that if any Covid-19 aid agreement is reached, it will be attached to a government funding measure to speed passage.

Party leaders are negotiating the coronavirus relief package based on a $908 billion plan unveiled last week by a bipartisan rank-and-file group. The main sticking point is a liability shield for companies and organizations, a GOP demand.

The emerging plan includes unemployment benefits, relief for restaurants and other small businesses and aid to state and local governments to pay teachers, police and other workers. It does not include direct payments to Americans, which some Democrats and Republicans are still pushing for.

State and local funding has also been a contentious issue, but Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J., said Monday on MSNBC that the two sides are "within inches" of resolving it.

One provision of that will expire at the is paid family and medical leave specific to COVID, which is not part of the bipartisan framework.

Paid family and medical leave was approved in March. The measure reimburses through the tax system businesses with less than 500 employees that provide 10 paid sick days for employees who need to quarantine, self-isolate or care for a loved one with COVID. It also provides 10 weeks of child care for parents whose kids’ schools has closed because of COVID.

“Obviously there’s been a lot of issues that have not made it into this emergency relief negotiation and bill, because as we put this together and we laid out the $900 billion, we were really trying to find those common ground,” said Rep. Tom Reed, R-N.Y., on MSNBC’s Meet the Press Daily.