US COVID-19 Aid Plan “Within Reach,” Lawmakers Say

FILE IMAGE.  The dome of the Capitol in Washington, USA.  December 17, 2020. REUTERS / Erin Scott
FILE IMAGE. The dome of the Capitol in Washington, USA. December 17, 2020. REUTERS / Erin Scott

By Patricia Zengerle and David Lawder

WASHINGTON, Dec 19 (Reuters) – Members of the U.S. Congress were rushing Saturday to resolve the latest hurdles and complete a $ 900 billion package to help Americans struggling with the high health and financial costs of the coronavirus pandemic.

“We’re within reach,” Democrat Speaker Nancy Pelosi told her party members on a call to discuss deal negotiations, according to a person who participated in the call.

And in the Senate, which held a rare weekend session as negotiations progressed, Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he expected a deal as early as Saturday.

“We need to pass these measures with a large bipartisan vote and get them signed into law without further delay,” he said.

Representatives from both parties said the last major hurdle was a Republican-led push, led by Sen. Pat Toomey this week, to curb the Federal Reserve’s loan programs.

“That’s the most important thing,” Pelosi told reporters. “And that’s what’s detrimental to our economy and slows down a deal.”

Members of Congress are under intense pressure to finalize the largest aid package since the first weeks of the pandemic, when they approved more than $ 4 trillion in aid.

COVID-19 has killed 311,000 Americans, by far the most in the world, and caused the loss of millions of jobs. Economists say growth will likely remain slow until vaccines become widely available in mid-2021.

Lawmakers weren’t sure when a deal would be announced, but a vote was not expected before Sunday afternoon. John Thune, the second Senate Republican, said the vote could go as late as Monday, but the latest issues can be resolved.

“We are in the final stretch … and I think we will make it and help the American people,” Thune said.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle and David Lawder, Additional reporting by Richard Cowan, Written by Patricia Zengerle and Andy Sullivan, Edited in Spanish by Manuel Farías)

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