The US Congress passes an emergency funding invoice to keep away from a authorities shutdown

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© Reuters. The dome of the US Capitol can be seen in Washington at night

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By Patricia Zengerle and Richard Cowan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Congress on Friday passed a two-day emergency extension of existing federal funds to President Donald Trump to avoid a government shutdown at midnight as negotiators worked on a $ 900 billion coronavirus support bill and a $ 1.4 trillion government. broad expenditure account until September 2021.

With little debate and only hours left of state funds running out, the House and Senate gave congressional leaders more time to attempt to draft a non-partisan coronavirus support law that would go hand in hand with the massive spending legislation.

"I believe everyone agrees that we're making good progress on a major relief bill that the mediocre measure aims to implement for the year," said Republican Senate Chairman Mitch McConnell, shortly before the bill was passed temporary expenses.

Assuming Trump approves the stopgap, lawmakers will attempt to break a Sunday midnight deadline, almost exactly two years after an unresolved spending war that sparked a 35-day government shutdown, the longest in history.

After months of partisan cues and inaction, Republicans and Democrats have been deeply negotiating what is likely the largest package since spring to provide relief to a country grappling with a pandemic that kills more than 3,000 people a day.

With the support of Trump, who is leaving office on Jan. 20, and Democratic President-elect Joe Biden, they have reported progress.

But there's still enough disparity – including an argument over a Republican-backed plan to curb the Federal Reserve's loan programs to ease the economic sting of the pandemic – that talks are likely to last well into the weekend.

Some Republicans accused the Democrats of using the lending service as a back door to aid state and local governments, which Republicans are dismissing as a "slush fund" for democratically controlled local governments.

Other sticking points include disagreements over the level of relief for art venues closed by COVID-19 restrictions and a dispute over whether to increase the Federal Emergency Management Agency's reimbursements to local governments for items like personal protective equipment for schools.

Many problems were solved. Coronavirus legislation is expected to provide one-time checks for most Americans of around $ 600 each, expanded unemployment benefits of $ 300 per week, aid to states distributing the vaccine, and support for small businesses, affected by the pandemic.

Congressional leaders plan to add COVID-19 aid to the $ 1.4 trillion spending bill.

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McConnell said the Senate would remain in session all weekend if necessary to reach an agreement.

The prospect of a government shutdown put pressure on a relief plan. A prolonged shutdown would force thousands more people off work and disrupt services as the country accelerates the spread of coronavirus vaccines, although the effects wouldn't be fully felt over the weekend.

"We have a government of 2 million people waiting every hour to find out if they will work," Hoyer told reporters.

Congress was moved to action by an alarming increase in hospital stays and deaths. The U.S. coronavirus death toll is by far the highest in the world at over 311,000, and many Americans who do not receive automatic government assistance in many other countries face homelessness or the inability to support their families.

Biden has said he wanted the COVID-19 relief for Americans to be over now and has pledged to do more after he is sworn in.

Republicans are also keeping a close eye on the impact that inaction could have on two January 5 runoff elections in Georgia that will determine whether their party will keep control of the Senate for the next two years or hand it over to the Democrats.

Democrats say Republican Senator Pat Toomey is promoting his plan to contain the Fed's emergency lending agency to make Biden's new administration more difficult to deal with the COVID-19 crisis.

Toomey denied this, saying that the lending authorities would be phasing out anyway.

Larry Kudlow, director of Trump's National Economic Council, told reporters at the White House that the Trump administration "strongly supports" Toomey's plan.

Brian Deese, Biden's election as Kudlow's successor, said the auxiliary bill should not include Toomey's provision.

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