The meeting also comes as House leaders plan on Tuesday to introduce the text of a $1.4 trillion omnibus to fund the government, the potential vehicle for any coronavirus deal. The House is hoping to introduce text of a coronavirus relief proposal on Wednesday, but what that looks like is still unknown.
Republicans have suggested dropping the most contentious issues — state and local aid and a liability shield — and a bipartisan Senate negotiating group did so on Monday as it presented a $748 billion compromise bill with support from members in both parties. Democratic leaders have not said they will relent on money for local governments, though they may have to in order to get a deal this week.
“It’s just my impression from the way the negotiating group separated those two issues, it seems to take Sen. McConnell’s advice to leave those to the side and do what we can,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), a close McConnell ally.
There has been major movement in recent weeks toward a potential deal, including the bipartisan proposal finally unveiled by centrist senators on Monday. But some Republicans are concerned the bill text doesn’t reflect restrictions like the Hyde Amendment, which bars federal funds from going to abortions, and the text may need to be altered, according to two people familiar with the situation. Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) are also still pushing for stimulus checks to be sent directly to individuals and families.
And the same two issues that have long bedeviled Pelosi and McConnell — Republican opposition to additional funding for local governments coupled with Democratic resistance to liability protections for businesses — remain.
Notably, Senate leaders did not provide an update on the current negotiations in their opening floor remarks Tuesday, in a potential sign that both sides are looking to lock down a deal rather than hurl the usual insults about who is to blame. McConnell instead made news of his own by finally acknowledging Joe Biden as the president-elect. And Schumer made a pitch for funding vaccine distribution but did not discuss the current talks beyond that.
While McConnell and Pelosi have yet to comment on the specifics of the bipartisan Senate bill, other senior lawmakers in both parties have been optimistic this week that it could serve as a framework for a final deal.
“Now it’s going to be in the hands of the leadership,” Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.) said in floor remarks on Tuesday.
“I hope we can call it [up] this week. We should not go home without it.”