The $900 billion stimulus deal hinged on a disagreement over a single word that was resolved in a late-night call between senators

The $900 billion stimulus deal hinged on a disagreement over a single word that was resolved in a late-night call between senators
Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) questions Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin during a hearing of the Congressional Oversight Commission on December 10, 2020 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.SARAH SILBIGER/POOL/AFP via Getty Images
  • Details are emerging of the negotiations that led to Congress agreeing on a $900 billion stimulus deal on Monday night.
  • A disagreement over a single word in the bill on the US Federal Reserve's role in providing relief was the final sticking point, reported Politico.
  • Republicans, led by Sen. Pat Toomey, believed that Democrats were trying to smuggle in funding to local government.
  • Democrats believed the GOP was trying to hamstring the incoming Biden administration.
  • In a late-night Saturday phone call, Toomey and minority leader Sen. Chuck Schumer reached an agreement to subtly change the wording, Politico said.
  • The US Senate voted 92-6 to pass the stimulus bill Monday night.

Months of negotiations in Congress over a $900 billion COVID-19 stimulus bill almost melted down at the last moment, but were rescued by a one-word change to the legislation, Politico reported Monday.

Among the many battles over the provisions of the bill, an objection by the GOP's Sen. Pat Toomey over the role of the US Federal Reserve almost proved explosive.

But, per Politico, it was defused but a late-night call over the weekend between Toomey and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat. They agreed to replace the word "similar" with "same."

The agreement helped pave the way for Congress to pass the bill as part of a large package of financial measures.

Toomey, a fiscal hawk, said he would not be able to back a bill unless new restrictions were imposed on the role of the Reserve in providing financial aid.


His Republican colleagues appeared ready to support him, and risk blowing up the deal.

Toomey insisted that the Reserve be barred from resurrecting lending programs "similar" to three due to be wound down at the end of the year. The programs are aimed at small and medium-sized businesses and state local governments.

Republicans were convinced that Democrats were planning to bypass their objections to federal government money being loaned to state and local governments, per Politico.

Democrats saw in the move a ploy to damage the incoming Biden administration, and restrict its ability to target economic aid and resuscitate the economy.

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The clock was ticking, with a short extension to negotiations agreed Friday, and the dispute looked as though it could upend weeks of hard negotiating and grudging compromise.

But Maryland Sen. Chris Van Hollen stepped in to open discussions between Toomey and Democrats, according to reports, and an eleventh hour phone call between Toomey and Schumer saved the deal.

"Toomey had one last discussion with Schumer, and shortly before midnight on Saturday, aides announced the impasse was broken," reported Politico. "Instead of "similar," the legislation would bar the Fed from restarting the "same" facilities. The conservative Toomey said he would vote for the bill."

The bill, reported Yahoo Finance, now prohibits the Reserve from creating "clones" of the emergency lending measures being wound down.

Congress then moved swiftly to pass the bill, with the US Senate on Monday night voting 92-6 to pass the legislation, not long after the House did the same.


As of Tuesday morning, it was awaiting approval from President Donald Trump.