WASHINGTON | Congress gave itself a little two-day respite on Friday to extend discussions on the 2021 budget in order to avoid a shutdown – a paralysis of the federal administration – and above all to try to pull off a support plan for the American economy.
Despite the prospect of a government shutdown on Friday at midnight and the expiration on December 26, aid to households, Democrats and Republicans failed, this week, to put an end to their negotiations on a new package of crucial aid for households and businesses hard hit by the crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
New sticking points have even appeared since Thursday, casting doubt on the possibility of adopting measures before Sunday.
Democrats and Republicans are under pressure while at the same time they have not found a consensus on the new finance law either.
The House of Representatives and the Senate therefore agreed to adopt a resolution to extend the finance law.
It still remains for Donald Trump to sign it before midnight to avoid the shutdown.
Last week, Congress had already granted a week’s respite to adopt the 2021 budget. This was indeed initially due to expire on December 11 at midnight.
The new deadline comes as Democrats and Republicans still seemed a long way off on Friday from sealing an agreement on a proposed emergency aid plan of some $ 900 billion unveiled more than two weeks ago.
This is all the more expected as the measures voted in the spring will expire in eight days.
“We hope that they will reach an agreement in the near future,” reacted the number 2 Democrat in the House, Steny Hoyer. But there are still “some important issues unresolved,” he acknowledged.
New bone of contention
He was referring in particular to the last-minute demand by certain Republicans to include in law a provision restricting the intervention of the Central Bank in the granting of credit to companies and other institutions.
“The leaders work 24 hours a day,” the leader of the Republican majority in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, said Friday morning, saying he was more optimistic than the day before on the possibility of removing the last obstacles.
An agreement is “very close”, he added, pointing to “productive” discussions.
“As I said, the Senate will be here until an agreement is reached when possible,” he added, already hinting that the negotiations could continue throughout the weekend. end.
The country is in desperate need of a new aid plan due to the new wave of cases of COVID-19 infections that have slowed the economic recovery.
Many local officials, including those most resistant to containment measures, have taken the decision to close part of the activity, including bars and restaurants, causing unemployment claims to jump in the last two weeks.
Since he was elected, Joe Biden has not stopped urging Congress to vote “immediately” on a new aid plan.
This should include measures for the distribution and logistics of coronavirus vaccines as well as additional unemployment benefits of $ 300 per week and direct checks to families of $ 600, or half of the amount granted last March.
In March, the emergency passage of the Cares Act of more than $ 2,200 billion, supplemented in April by an extension of nearly $ 500 billion intended for companies, had allowed the world’s largest economy to limit the scale of the recession and millions of people not to fall into poverty.
Economists have been urging for months to vote for new measures.
So far, Democrats and Republicans have failed to overcome their divide.
Among the points of persistent disagreement: the amount of the check to be given to households.
In a statement, Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer said Friday night that he wanted a check for $ 1,200.
“We have the opportunity to provide direct financial assistance” to Americans and make a difference for the poorest households, he argued.
“The only objection we have heard is that it will add too much to the government’s deficit”, he lamented.