Toomey, Schumer reportedly reach agreement on COVID relief bill language

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Senators held talks on Capitol Hill late Saturday, as Congress worked to approve funding for the long-awaited coronavirus relief package by Sunday.

Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., hit the Senate floor Saturday with a list of grievances on the $900 billion package — the latest hold-up in Congress passing the bill.

But Fox News learned late Saturday that Toomey had agreed to compromise language from his initial proposal that would have prevented the Federal Reserve chairman from establishing federal lending programs similar to those set up in March to help credit markets function during massive U.S. economic shutdowns.

Details on the changes were not immediately available. But the apparent compromise, following discussions between Toomey and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., appeared to open a path to a final agreement on the coronavirus package.


Soon after Fox News learned of the development, Schumer emerged from negotiations, saying a COVID deal was "very close" and it appeared both the House and Senate would be able to vote on legislation on Sunday.

Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., is seen on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday Dec. 10, 2020. (Associated Press)

"It looks like we'll be able to," Schumer said. "If things continue on this path and nothing gets in the way, we'll be able to vote tomorrow."

Toomey spokesman Steve Kelly issued a statement about the compromise early Sunday.

"This tentative agreement is an unqualified victory for taxpayers," Kelly said. "Senate Republicans achieved all four of our objectives regarding the CARES Act 13(3) Federal Reserve lending programs.

"This agreement rescinds more than $429 billion in unused CARES Act funds; definitively ends the CARES Act lending facilities by December 31, 2020; stops these facilities from being restarted; and forbids them from being duplicated without congressional approval.

"This agreement will preserve Fed independence and prevent Democrats from hijacking these programs for political and social policy purposes."

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also issued a statement, through spokesman Doug Andres.

"Now that Democrats have agreed to a version of Senator Toomey’s important language," the statement said, "we can begin closing out the rest of the package to deliver much-needed relief to families, workers, and businesses."

Earlier Saturday, Toomey has requested that language be added to the latest bill that would ensure termination of three federal lending programs established in March to help credit markets function during massive U.S. economic shutdowns.

"We’ve never asked the Fed to engage in fiscal policy or social policy, or to allocate credit based on political standing," Toomey said.

The CARES Act created a corporate bond credit facility, along with municipal and mainstream lending programs, that were originally intended to expire Dec. 31, but that Democrats want extended.

Toomey argued Saturday that extending the programs would be superfluous because they went underutilized after private credit markets quickly resumed normal functions. He added that the corporate credit facility was never used at all.

But Democrats have said Toomey’s language, which would prevent the credit lending programs from being restarted or duplicated "without congressional consent," would undermine the Federal Reserve’s emergency lending authority.

Toomey said his legislation was not an attempt to curtail the Biden administration, but rather a preventative measure.

"It would completely politicize the Fed, it would be the end of the independence of the Fed," Toomey said from the Senate floor Saturday.  

He argued that extending the emergency spending authority would allow the Federal Reserve to become an extension of the administration, and to implement fiscal policies through lending stipulations, such as climate policy-based conditions.

"Fiscal and social policy is the rightful realm of the people who are accountable to the American people and that’s us, that’s Congress," he added.

But Schumer pushed back, calling them 11th-hour demands, and "the only significant hurdle to completing an agreement, and Republicans need to make a decision."

"What he's proposing is not about COVID or helping the American people," Schumer said from the floor Saturday. "It's about tying the hands of the next treasury secretary and the next Fed chairman in a true emergency.

"Everybody needs to make a decision about whether we're going to pass this much-needed relief or not.  And about 11th hour demands and whether they are worth holding up the entire bill," he added.


House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told Congress, after the House and Senate approved another stopgap funding bill Friday, to expect a vote sometime after 1 p.m. Sunday – giving them another two-day extension to prevent a government shutdown.