Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday told fellow Republicans that he has warned the White House not to divide Republicans by sealing a lopsided pre-election COVID-19 relief deal with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — even as he publicly said he'd slate any such agreement for a vote.
McConnell made his remarks during a private lunch with fellow Republicans on Tuesday, three people familiar with his remarks said, requesting anonymity because the session was private.
The Kentucky Republican appears worried that an agreement between Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin would drive a wedge between Republicans, forcing them to choose whether to support a Pelosi-blessed deal with Trump that would violate conservative positions they've stuck with for months. Many Republicans say they can't vote for another huge Pelosi-brokered agreement.
McConnell's move dampens even further any potential for an agreement and comes as Pelosi and Mnuchin have arrived at a critical phase of their talks if any relief is going to be enacted by Election Day. The contours of a potential deal are taking shape behind the scenes even as President Donald Trump's GOP allies are recoiling at the administration's tolerance for a $2 trillion package.
McConnell said if such a bill passed the Democratic-controlled House with Trump's blessing “we would put it on the floor of the Senate.” Those public remarks came after the private session with fellow Republicans.
Pelosi and Mnuchin spoke again Tuesday amid signs that they are continuing to narrow their differences. Pelosi said Tuesday that they remain at odds over refundable tax credits for the working poor and families with children, the size of a Democratic-sought aid package for state and local governments, and a liability shield for businesses and other organizations against lawsuits over their COVID preparations.
In other developments:
- Virus cases are surging across Europe and many U.S. states, but responses by leaders are miles apart, with officials in Ireland, France and elsewhere imposing curfews and restricting gatherings even as some U.S. governors resist mask mandates or more aggressive measures.
- The CDC is strongly recommending that passengers on planes, trains and buses wear masks, but it's still stopping short of requiring face coverings to prevent spreading COVID-19.
- President Trump’s pre-election broadsides against Dr. Anthony Fauci drew mild rebuke and little buy-in Tuesday from Capitol Hill, as Senate Republicans tried to avoid linking themselves too closely to the president's name-calling and the White House's overall COVID-19 response.
- The nation’s capital has become one of the first jurisdictions in the country to employ a new COVID-19 notification system, a joint Google-Apple venture that delivers alerts to people’s phones, notifying them that they may have been exposed to the coronavirus.
- A new study shows that older workers are facing higher unemployment than midcareer workers amid the coronavirus pandemic.
- Dozens of Pennsylvania doctors have called on President Donald Trump to cancel his Erie campaign rally on Tuesday night, citing the rising number of coronavirus cases in the state.
- Melania Trump’s return to the campaign trail will have to wait. The first lady decided against accompanying President Trump to a campaign rally Tuesday in Pennsylvania because of a lingering cough after her bout with COVID-19, said Stephanie Grisham, her chief of staff.
- Available information suggests U.S. drug overdose deaths are on track to reach an all-time high this year. The coronavirus played a role in worsening the overdose epidemic, though it will take years of study to sort out exactly how.
- U.K. researchers are preparing to infect healthy young volunteers with the new coronavirus to study the disease in hopes of speeding up development of a vaccine.