A bipartisan group of senators is holding discussions to try to get a deal on a fifth round of coronavirus relief amid a months-long stalemate between congressional leadership and the White House.
The talks, confirmed to The Hill by four sources, are one of the first signs of life for a potential coronavirus agreement as congressional Democrats, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellFive things to know about Georgia’s Senate runoffs Obama chief economist says Democrats should accept smaller coronavirus relief package if necessary Memo to Biden: Go big — use the moment to not only rebuild but to rebuild differently MORE (R-Ky.) and the White House have remained far apart on both the price tag and the policy details.
The group includes Republicans Sens. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyVoters elected a record number of Black women to Congress this year — none were Republican Congress set for chaotic year-end sprint Biden’s Cabinet a battleground for future GOP White House hopefuls MORE (Utah), Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanBiden says transition outreach from Trump administration has been ‘sincere’ The Hill’s 12:30 Report: Trump holds his last turkey pardon ceremony The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC – Trump OKs transition; Biden taps Treasury, State experience MORE (Ohio) and Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsCongress set for chaotic year-end sprint Biden’s Cabinet a battleground for future GOP White House hopefuls Two more parting shots from Trump aimed squarely at disabled workers MORE (Maine), as well as Democratic Sens. Chris CoonsChris Andrew CoonsDemocrats face increasing pressure to back smaller COVID-19 stimulus Biden rolls out national security team Democrats brush off calls for Biden to play hardball on Cabinet picks MORE (Del.), Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinMajor unions back Fudge for Agriculture secretary Voters split on eliminating the filibuster: poll OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Barrasso to seek top spot on Energy and Natural Resources Committee | Forest Service finalizes rule weakening environmental review of its projects | Biden to enlist Agriculture, Transportation agencies in climate fight MORE (W.Va.), Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerHarris shares Thanksgiving recipe: ‘During difficult times I have always turned to cooking’ Biden leans on foreign policy establishment to build team Trump relents as GSA informs Biden transition to begin MORE (Va.), Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetDemocratic senators urge Facebook to take action on anti-Muslim bigotry Hickenlooper ousts Gardner in Colorado, handing Democrats vital pickup Lobbying world MORE (Colo.) and Dick DurbinDick DurbinThe Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC – COVID-19 fears surround Thanksgiving holiday Feinstein departure from top post sets stage for Judiciary fight Whitehouse says Democratic caucus will decide future of Judiciary Committee MORE (D-Ill.), the No. 2 Senate Democrat.
Senators involved in the talks are eyeing an eventual government funding deal as a vehicle for coronavirus relief. Congress has to fund the government — either with a full-year omnibus or short-term continuing resolution (CR) — by Dec. 11.
Any effort to revive the chances of another coronavirus deal faces an uphill path, even as cases climb across the country and some cities and states reinstate restrictions to try to curb the spread of the disease heading into what health experts expect to be a brutal winter season.
McConnell has stood firm at pushing for a roughly $500 billion spending package similar to what has been blocked twice in the Senate. Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiObama chief economist says Democrats should accept smaller coronavirus relief package if necessary The five biggest challenges facing President-elect Biden Democrats were united on top issues this Congress — but will it hold? MORE (D-Calif.) and Senate Democratic Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerThe five biggest challenges facing President-elect Biden Collins urges voters to turn out in Georgia runoffs Protect America’s houses of worship in year-end appropriations package MORE (D-N.Y.) say $2.2 trillion is the starting line for any negotiations.
Any deal crafted by the bipartisan group is likely to be significantly more modest, and would need to get buy-in from leadership. Politico first reported details of the group. Portman indicated earlier this month that he was having bipartisan discussions on a “targeted” deal but didn’t detail who was involved.
Programs created under the March CARES Act including an evictions moratorium and beefed up unemployment, are set to expire at the end of the year. Money provided to state and local governments currently can only be used for costs incurred this year and senators are eager to provide another round of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) assistance to small businesses.
Warner told MSNBC on Monday that it “would be stupidity on steroids if Congress didn’t act before the holidays.”
“It would be the worst self-inflicted harm in recent times,” he added.