Congress works on Covid-19 relief deal as shutdown deadline looms

By Meg Wagner and Melissa Mahtani, CNN

Updated 7:49 p.m. ET, December 18, 2020
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7:14 p.m. ET, December 18, 2020

Senate averts government shutdown

From CNN's Ali Zaslav, Ted Barrett and Clare Foran

McConnell walks to his office from the Senate Floor on  Friday, December 18.
McConnell walks to his office from the Senate Floor on Friday, December 18. Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Congress has now averted a government shutdown by passing a stop-gap bill.

The Senate has passed a two-day continuing resolution to keep the government funded as Covid relief negotiations continue. The resolution passed by voice vote.

The two-day continuing resolution was passed by the House earlier Friday evening. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Friday in a floor speech that “as of right now we have not yet reached a final agreement, regretfully."

"I believe all sides feel we're making good progress on a major relief bill… But, alas, we are not there yet. But, alas, we are not there yet. Given that our urgent task is to pass a stopgap government funding measure, there’s no reason why the federal government funding should lapse while we hammer out our remaining difference," he said,

Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, who has been pushing for $1,200 stimulus checks along with GOP Sen. Josh Hawley, spoke on the floor, saying, "I will object to any attempt by the Senate to pass an omnibus appropriations bill and leave town before passing a Covid relief bill with substantial direct payments going to working people."

But Sanders said, "Let us get this package passed. Let's make certain that we have direct payments to working families and with that I will withdraw my objection."

6:34 p.m. ET, December 18, 2020

House passes resolution to keep government funded through the weekend

From CNN's Kirstin Wilson

House TV
House TV

The US House of Representatives has passed a two-day continuing resolution to keep the government funded after midnight.

The measure will now go to the Senate and requires the consent of all 100 senators tonight.

5:20 p.m. ET, December 18, 2020

The House is voting on a stopgap funding bill

From CNN's Daniella Diaz and Kristin Wilson

The US House of Representatives is voting right now on a continuing resolution to keep the government funded after midnight.

While it is expected to pass in the House, the measure also requires the consent of all 100 senators tonight, which is in doubt.

Republican Sen. Josh Hawley told CNN earlier today that he would object if he doesn't get a readout of where things are in the talks and whether stimulus checks are in fact included.

But Hawley later tweeted that he would consent to the brief continuing resolution, meaning he doesn’t plan to object and derail a quick vote in the Senate on a stop-gap bill to avert a shutdown at midnight. It’s not yet clear if any other senators might object.

“I have been assured by Senate GOP leadership that #COVID direct assistance to working people IS in the #covid relief bill under negotiation & will remain. And on that basis, I will consent to a brief continuing resolution to allow negotiations to conclude," he tweeted.

As CNN's Manu Raju reported, Sen. Bernie Sanders is being non-committal on whether he would give consent to keep the government open for two more days, saying, “We are thinking about it.”

He has been demanding a vote on his proposal with Hawley for $1,200 stimulus checks.

4:19 p.m. ET, December 18, 2020

McConnell looking at two-day stopgap to keep government open

From CNN's Manu Raju

Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images
Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is looking at a two-day stopgap to keep the government open past midnight tonight, according to a source who has seen the message sent to Senate offices.

The leader's office is now checking with senators to see if anyone will object to an effort to quickly pass it on the floor tonight.

If a single senator objects, the US government could be headed for a shutdown. But if the shutdown happens only over the weekend, the impact could be minimal.

Republican leaders expect some members to object and prevent quick passage. Republican Sen. Josh Hawley told CNN earlier today that he would object if he doesn't get a readout of where things are in the talks and whether stimulus checks are in fact included.

4:10 p.m. ET, December 18, 2020

GOP senator says government shutdown is a "likely conclusion," but is "hoping" to avoid one

From CNN's Ted Barrett and Ali Zaslav

Caroline Brehman/Pool/Getty Images
Caroline Brehman/Pool/Getty Images

After a meeting with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Republican Whip Sen. John Thune was downbeat about a Covid relief deal being announced today, and said that passing a continuing resolution ahead of the funding deadline at midnight “could prove to be a pretty heavy lift.”

When asked if that means we’re headed for a shutdown, Thune replied, “That would be the likely conclusion,” but he’s still “hoping” they can find a way to avoid it.

“There are lots of individual senators and I think there are members on both sides who are resistant to the idea of doing another [continuing resolution],” the South Dakota Republican said. “But if there is good progress on the deal and it looks likely that we’re going to be able to — they’re going to be able to announce something soon hopefully the Christmas spirit will kick in."

On whether they’ll reach a deal on relief today, Thune said, “That would be a triumph of hope over experience to think we might get a deal today."

"I think that would be the best-case scenario. Best case scenario of getting something voted on was probably going to be Sunday, but it may be later than that," he added.

3:15 p.m. ET, December 18, 2020

There are just 9 hours left until the government shutdown deadline

Congressional leaders have been scrambling to finalize a $900 billion Covid-19 relief deal ahead of tonight's midnight deadline to fund the government.

It's just past 3 p.m. ET — which means there are just nine hours left until the government runs out of money. With no quick resolution in sight, lawmakers are gearing up to work through the weekend.

Relief and the shutdown deadline are tied together since leaders want to tie the relief deal to a $1.4 trillion funding bill to keep the government open through next September.

About a possible stopgap bill: Senate GOP leaders have been openly talking about how it may be necessary to pass a stopgap bill — called a continuing resolution, or CR — to extend the shutdown deadline for a brief window of up to 48 hours, though Democratic leaders have so far been unwilling to embrace that call in an effort to pressure Republicans to finalize a relief deal.

To pull off passage of a short-term funding bill just hours before midnight, it would require bipartisan cooperation and all 100 senators to agree to schedule a vote.

At the moment, that cooperation is lacking, top Republicans say.

3:00 p.m. ET, December 18, 2020

Pelosi and McConnell spoke this afternoon in an effort to close out deal on relief package

From CNN's Manu Raju, Kristin Wilson, Daniella Diaz and Suzanne Malveaux

Getty Images
Getty Images

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell spoke last hour in an effort to close out the outstanding issues over the Covid-19 relief package. 

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said on the floor that the House would be in recess for the next few hours to get a "clearer picture of where we are."

He told CNN that there might be a vote tonight and will make a decision at 5 p.m. on whether they'll have a continuing resolution.

Staff for the leadership are now engaged in a furious round of negotiations to see if they can finalize the agreement among the leaders. 

It is almost certain that votes will spill into the weekend. Hoyer said to be prepared for votes on Saturday and Sunday.

2:48 p.m. ET, December 18, 2020

GOP senator says relief talks are in the "same place, no progress"

From CNN's Ted Barrett and Ali Zaslav

 

Rod Lamkey/Pool/Getty Images
Rod Lamkey/Pool/Getty Images

The No. 2 Senate Republican, John Thune, said Friday that Covid-19 relief talks are in the same place. 

“Kind of the same place, no progress,” Thune said, when asked if he had an update on the negotiations.

Congressional leaders are scrambling to finalize a $900 billion Covid-19 relief deal before tonight's midnight deadline to fund the government. Relief and the shutdown deadline are tied together since leaders want to tie the relief deal to a $1.4 trillion funding bill to keep the government open through next September.

2:11 p.m. ET, December 18, 2020

Representatives are venting about the lack of information on the stimulus talks

From CNN's Manu Raju

Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images
Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images

As congressional leaders scramble to finalize a possible Covid-19 relief deal, there’s a lot of frustration on the floor among rank-and-file House members who are shut out of the talks and have no information about timing, what’s in the deal, or when they may vote — or if they’ll vote soon to keep the government open past midnight, according to members in both parties.

“What the hell is going on?” one Democrat said, summing up the frustration on the floor.

A Republican House member added: “We are hearing nothing — and it’s outrageous."

These same members will be asked to vote on both the $900 billion Covid relief proposal — which they haven’t seen — and the $1.4 trillion omnibus spending package to keep the government funding, which they haven’t seen either, within days.

Remember: The possible Covid-19 relief deal and the shutdown deadline are tied together since congressional leaders want to tie the relief deal to a $1.4 trillion funding bill to keep the government open through next September.