Sen. Hawley backs off threat to block stopgap funding bill as relief negotiations spill into weekend

As has become standard fare in recent years, time is winding down for Congress to pass a spending package that will fund the federal government for the next year. Tied into the spending deal is long-awaited relief for American families who are still weathering the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic — but despite months of back-and-forth, a deal still hasn’t been reached between Democrats, led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), and Republicans, led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

With a Friday deadline on the horizon, lawmakers penned a stopgap measure designed to fund the government for two additional days to give leaders time to hammer out the final details on coronavirus relief. And though Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) had threatened to block the stopgap bill ahead of a last-minute vote, the Missouri Republican abruptly ended his objections after he was assured that direct relief payments would be included in the final package, The Hill reported.

Hawley’s acceptance of the stopgap measure, known as a continuing resolution (CR), paved the way for President Donald Trump to sign it Friday night, leaving Congress with a new deadline of Sunday to strike a deal, according to Reuters.

Backing down from the fight

Ahead of the Friday vote, Hawley had drawn a line in the sand: either congressional leaders show proof that they were inching toward a deal or he’d block the CR, which needed unanimous approval in the upper chamber to make it to Trump’s desk.

“I’d like to see some indication of what we’re moving toward,” Hawley had said, according to The Hill. “So I’m not going to allow a CR to go through until I know what’s actually in the package.”

Just hours later, the Missouri senator reportedly took to social media to reveal that he had relented from his threat after hearing what he needed to hear from McConnell (R-KY) and his top allies in leadership.

Hawley also said he’d continue to fight for $1,200 relief checks for Americans, and an additional $500 check per child, at least.

Close to a deal?

Of course, Hawley wasn’t alone in his threat to block the CR; according to Politico, the Republican was joined by progressive Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (I), who ultimately relented on the stopgap bill but said from the Senate floor that he would oppose any final spending measure that didn’t include “substantial direct payments.”

“Let me also be absolutely clear,” he said, “that I will object to any attempt by the Senate to pass an omnibus appropriations bill and leave town before passing a COVID relief bill with substantial direct payments going to working people.”

McConnell, for his part, seems to think “good progress” is being made, but it remains to be seen what exactly he means by that, as well as what exactly will be included in the final package.

“I believe all sides feel we are making good progress on a major relief bill that would travel with the full-year appropriations measure,” the majority leader said Friday, according to Reuters. “We’ve been close for a while now. And we still are.”

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