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Senators expect to pass government funding, coronavirus relief bills this weekend

There’s finally a light at the end of the coronavirus relief tunnel.

Months after the last COVID-19 stimulus bill expired, lawmakers say they’re about ready to pass a renewal that has support from both parties. They also are finalizing the annual government funding bill, which COVID-19 relief is lumped in with, and expect to pass finalized versions this weekend, Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) said Thursday.

While boosted unemployment payments and other provisions expired with the previous CARES Act, even more unemployment programs were set to run out at the end of the year. Also expiring Friday is a one-week continuing resolution funding the government, passed last week to keep the government from shutting down as Congress worked out a longer-term deal. Senators may unveil an approximately $900 billion relief package as soon as Thursday, The Washington Post reports, though discussions over its final passage may drag into the weekend.

Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) said Thursday it’s a “real possibility” the Senate passes a 24- or 48-hour continuing resolution to fund the government through the weekend, though Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said he “pray[s] we don’t do that.” Indecision remains over how to distribute stimulus checks — they’re expected to be about $600. The final bill is also expected to include boosted unemployment benefits of $300 per week, and $325 billion in aid for small businesses, reports Axios.

Democrats and Republicans will both be able to cite wins and losses in the relief bill, Axios notes. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) can tell fiscally conservative Republicans that this bill doesn’t have a very different price tag from the one he proposed over the summer, while Democrats were able to block a liability shield that would prevent businesses from facing coronavirus-related lawsuits. Kathryn Krawczyk

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