US Congress Struggles over Stimulus Deal Amid New Shutdown Threat

Washington, Dec 18 (AFP/APP): US lawmakers were hammering out final details Friday on a major coronavirus relief package and an attached federal funding bill but sticking points could push them past a midnight deadline, threatening a government shutdown amid swelling health and fiscal crises.

Republicans and Democrats braced for possibly working through the weekend to conclude a $900 billion deal aimed at providing emergency relief for millions of struggling families and businesses amid signs of a worsening economy and as the country sees record high death tolls from the coronavirus pandemic. But with the holidays approaching, a midnight Friday deadline loomed.

If an extension of government funding is needed it will take agreement from all 100 senators to do so, and that is far from guaranteed. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that the round-the-clock talks between congressional leaders “remain productive” and he anticipated a deal would be reached, but he acknowledged the timing was up in the air.

“I’m even more optimistic now than I was last night that a bipartisan bicameral framework for a major rescue package is very close at hand,” top Republican McConnell said in a floor speech. “The Senate will be right here until an agreement is passed — whenever that may be.”

A relief package to aid struggling businesses and jobless workers is seen as critical to getting the world’s largest economy back on its feet amid a resurgence of Covid-19 infections, even as new vaccines offer hope that life can start returning to some semblance of normality.

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