Top US lawmakers scrambled Sunday to reach difficult agreements as quickly as possible on a new aid package for the coronavirus-battered economy, a funding bill to avoid a government shutdown and the defense budget.
And time was running out.
The current federal budget law expires on December 11. If Congress fails to agree on a new one by that date, American public finances will suddenly dry up.
In order to avoid a shutdown, Congress could decide to pass a temporary law for a few days, to give itself time between now and Christmas to reach a broad annual agreement on the 2021 budget.
Republican and Democratic leaders have indicated that they would like the budget bill to include the next economic aid measures for the coronavirus, which have been the subject of bitter negotiations.
“It’s really a superhuman effort on our part to help the American people as quickly as possible,” Democratic Senator Dick Durbin told ABC’s “This Week”.
Lawmakers have negotiated for months on passing such a bill, but haven’t come to terms on how much to spend and what to spend it on.
Durbin has backed a bipartisan $908 billion aid packaged proposed this week.
Democratic and Republican senators and their teams worked all weekend to draft the text of the detailed bill, which “will probably come out early this week,” said Senator Bill Cassidy, a Republican, on “Fox News Sunday”.
Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has agreed to make the proposal the basis for negotiations on a final text.
But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, and President Donald Trump, who has to sign the bill into law, have not made their positions clear.
At the same time, Congress members hope to pass the Pentagon’s defense budget (NDAA) quickly. Democrats and Republicans have reached a consensus on a bill for $740 billion.
But Trump is threatening to veto the measure if it does not include the abolition of a law protecting the legal status of social media networks, which he says are biased against him.
He also opposes plans to rename military bases named for Civil War Confederate generals, pushing back on pressure to rid public places of reminders of the once pro-slavery South.
Republicans believe they have the votes to override his veto, saying that the army cannot wait and that these issues could be addressed separately.
House Majority Leader, Democratic representative Steny Hoyer, has scheduled a vote for as early as Tuesday.