Bipartisan Senate group holding coronavirus relief talks amid stalemate

Coronavirus relief talks have been stalled for months. Now one bipartisan group of senators is trying to change that.

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 McConnell (R-Ky.) and the White House have remained far apart on both the price tag and the policy details.

The group includes Republican Sens. Mitt Romney (Utah), Rob Portman (Ohio) and Susan Collins (Maine) as well as Democratic Sens. Chris Coons (Del.), Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Mark Warner (Va.), Michael Bennet (Colo.) and Dick Durbin (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 with a short-term continuing resolution — by Dec. 11.

The standoff: 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 Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) say $2.2 trillion is the starting line for any negotiations.