With less than 36 hours to strike an elusive agreement on a $900 billion stimulus package and prevent a lapse in government funding, U.S. lawmakers and aides on Saturday worked feverishly to finalize the details on how to prop up the nation’s shuddering economy and send billions of dollars to distribute vaccines and support struggling American families and businesses.
Both chambers hastily approved a two-day stopgap bill on Friday, giving negotiators a window to hammer out both a final agreement and legislative text on a relief deal. The measure is expected to be merged with a catchall omnibus package needed to keep the government funded for the remainder of the fiscal year.
Congressional leaders hope to jam both spending packages through Congress and onto President Trump’s desk by the time funding lapses at midnight on Sunday.
“We need to pass these measures with a big bipartisan vote and get them signed into law without further delay,” Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, said on the Senate floor on Saturday.
But the biggest hurdle was a last-ditch push led by Senator Patrick J. Toomey, Republican of Pennsylvania, to insert language that would limit the powers of the Federal Reserve, potentially keeping it from lending to businesses and municipalities in future crises.
On a private caucus call Saturday morning, Speaker Nancy Pelosi denounced the attempt.
“For them to write in there that this cannot happen ever again is just beyond the pale,” Ms. Pelosi said, according to a person on the call, who was not authorized to speak publicly, depicting the move as a way to deprive President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s administration of the critical tools needed to support the country’s economic recovery.
Mr. Toomey, who has fought to curtail the scope of the Federal Reserve’s power, rejected that characterization but declined to comment on whether he would accept a compromise.
In a speech on the Senate floor, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the minority leader, said that the Fed chairman, Jerome Powell, opposed the measure and that the language was “the only significant hurdle to completing an agreement.”
Negotiators are also haggling over the final details of provisions, including who should be eligible for the $600 direct payments, tax extenders and the length of the enhanced and extended unemployment benefits. Although negotiators are coalescing around a $300 supplemental benefit — half the benefit established in the original $2.2 trillion stimulus law — it is unclear how long the benefits would run, and whether they would to taper to an end. Democrats are pushing for a hard cliff to end the benefits, in part to give lawmakers a deadline to return to the negotiating table.
On the call, Ms. Pelosi also criticized Republicans for suggesting cuts to unemployment and food assistance programs to keep the overall cost of the package below $1 trillion.
Senate Republicans voiced support for Mr. Toomey’s provision in the relief package.