The Hill's 12:30 Report: Congressional leaders close to a COVID-19 relief deal

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The Hill’s 12:30 Report: Congress nears coronavirus relief deal, adds stimulus checks | What we know about the negotiations | Senate GOP sends message to Trump that the election is over | Trump lashes out at McConnell | Says ‘people are angry’ | White House seeks more Pfizer vaccine doses | FDA authorizes rapid home COVID-19 test | Senate holds hearing on 2020 election security



You know, Congress, it’s getting harder to repeatedly come up with witty government funding headlines.:



Via The Hill’s Alexander Bolton, “Senate and House leaders are closing in on a coronavirus relief deal that would include direct stimulus payments, according to sources familiar with the talks.” https://bit.ly/2Wlc9TL 

What we know about the negotiations: “A person familiar with the negotiations confirmed the package will total around $900 billion, include a new round of stimulus checks, enhanced federal unemployment benefits and “other avenues to deliver aid to states, localities, territories and tribes” but will not include liability protections.” 

What we know about the stimulus checks: They would likely be at a lower amount than the $1,200 checks last March. 

What this package would exclude: $160 billion in state and local government funding 

The final price tag: It will likely stay under $1 trillion.

It’s a snowy Wednesday in D.C.! Well, maybe more of a wintry mix ...  I’m Cate Martel with a quick recap of the morning and what’s coming up. Send comments, story ideas and hot chocolate to cmartel@thehill.com — and follow along on Twitter @CateMartel and Facebook

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What happened yesterday:

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOvernight Health Care: Biden unveils virus plan and urges patience | Fauci says it's 'liberating' working under Biden | House to move quickly on COVID-19 relief Overnight Defense: House approves waiver for Biden's Pentagon nominee | Biden to seek five-year extension of key arms control pact with Russia | Two more US service members killed by COVID-19 On The Money: Pelosi says House will move immediately on COVID-19 relief | Biden faces backlash over debt | 900,000 more Americans file for unemployment benefits MORE (D-Calif), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump selects South Carolina lawyer for impeachment trial McConnell proposes postponing impeachment trial until February For Biden, a Senate trial could aid bipartisanship around COVID relief MORE (R-Ky.), Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerNRSC chair says he'll back GOP incumbents against Trump primary challengers Schumer becomes new Senate majority leader US Chamber of Commerce to Biden, Congress: Business community 'ready to help' MORE (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyMcCarthy supports Cheney remaining in leadership amid calls for her to step down The Hill's 12:30 Report: Biden hits the ground running on COVID Biden's inauguration marked by conflict of hope and fear MORE (R-Calif.) met twice to negotiate. https://bit.ly/2J0sOZW

^Also involved in the negotiations: Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven MnuchinPence delivers coronavirus task force report to Biden Treasury imposes additional sanctions on Cuba over allegations of 'serious human rights abuse' Treasury Department sanctions inner circle of Russian agent Derkach for election interference MORE on behalf of the White House  

McConnell described the negotiations to reporters: "We're making significant progress and I’m optimistic that we're gonna be able to complete an understanding sometime soon," McConnell told reporters. "Everybody wants to get a final agreement as soon as possible. We all believe the country needs it. And I think we're getting closer and closer.”


Via The Hill’s Alexander Bolton and Scott Wong: https://bit.ly/3aisrF2


The fat lady is singing:

“While [President TrumpDonald TrumpIran's leader vows 'revenge,' posting an image resembling Trump Former Sanders spokesperson: Biden 'backing away' from 'populist offerings' Justice Dept. to probe sudden departure of US attorney in Atlanta after Trump criticism MORE] is digging in and showing little sign of ending his public campaign despite a long losing streak in the courts, GOP senators — from leadership on down — are signaling they view the election result as settled and want to move on without a messy weeks-long fight.” https://bit.ly/2Ka0p46

The big change in momentum: Following Monday’s Electoral College vote, McConnell congratulated Biden. Rank-and-file Senate Republicans then followed McConnell’s lead.  

What to take from McConnell’s remarks: “McConnell’s remarks in the call reflected two truths: that he and other GOP Senate leaders want an end to the fight, and that they are worried that House Republicans are ready to keep it going. If a single GOP senator joins Brooks, it would ensure a vote by both chambers of Congress that would divide Republicans and publicly force them to vote against Trump, which the Senate’s top Republicans seem keen to avoid.”

Trump thoroughly disagrees:

President Trump lashed out at McConnell’s assessment that the presidential election is over. https://bit.ly/3oWaErt

Trump tweeted: “Mitch, 75,000,000 VOTES, a record for a sitting President (by a lot). Too soon to give up. Republican Party must finally learn to fight. People are angry!” https://bit.ly/2IUWiIt


Coronavirus cases in the U.S.: 16,737,063 

U.S. death toll: 304,094

Breakdown of the numbershttps://cnn.it/2UAgW3y

A rapid at-home COVID-19 test!:

Via The Washington Post’s William Wan, “The Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday authorized the first rapid coronavirus test that can be taken at home without prescription and that yields immediate results.” What to know about the testhttps://wapo.st/2WldHx9

Give us the goods:

Via The New York Times’s Sharon LaFraniere, Katie Thomas and Noah Weiland, “The Trump administration is negotiating a deal to use its power to free up supplies of raw materials to help Pfizer produce tens of millions of additional doses of its Covid-19 vaccine for Americans in the first half of next year, people familiar with the situation said.” https://nyti.ms/2K9LnLH

Getting traction — Melania takes off her mask at the children’s hospital:

“First lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpScorned and mistreated, Melania Trump deserved much better from the media The Hill's Morning Report - Biden takes office, calls for end to 'uncivil war' K Street navigates virtual inauguration week MORE took off her mask on Tuesday to read to children at the Children's National Hospital, where hospital policy requires visitors to wear a face covering though officials noted she sat away from others.” https://bit.ly/3rd7WzU 



Awww, this is heartwarming:




Ummm, is this a joke?:



Hyperlink https://bit.ly/3mqhIe4


The House and Senate are in. President Trump and Vice President Pence are in Washington, D.C. President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenRev. Barber says best way to undercut extremism is with honesty Biden requires international travelers to quarantine upon arrival to US Overnight Defense: House approves waiver for Biden's Pentagon nominee | Biden to seek five-year extension of key arms control pact with Russia | Two more US service members killed by COVID-19 MORE and Vice President-elect Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisHarris takes up temporary residence at Blair House Amanda Gorman captures national interest after inauguration performance Democrats formally elect Harrison as new DNC chair MORE are in Wilmington, Del.

11:30 a.m. EST: President Trump held a Cabinet Meeting. This was closed to press.

11:30 a.m. EST: Two roll call votes in the Senate. The House’s full agenda todayhttps://bit.ly/34kF7rf 

This afternoon: President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris separately receive the President’s Daily Brief. Biden and Harris will then virtually meet with governors. 

3 p.m. EST: The House meets. 

4 p.m. EST: Vice President Pence leads a White House Coronavirus Task Force meeting in the Situation Room. 

Thursday: The Hill is hosting a virtual event, “Meet the New Members.” Details and how to watchhttps://bit.ly/34ecEn5


Today: The Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs committee holds a hearing, "Examining Irregularities in the 2020 Election." Livestreamhttps://bit.ly/3gRbJOq 

11:30 a.m. EST: House Democratic leaders hold a news conference. Livestreamhttps://bit.ly/3gSQA6n 

11:45 a.m. EST: President-elect Biden announced the nomination of Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegBiden signs order to require masks on planes and public transportation Senators vet Buttigieg to run Transportation Department The Hill's 12:30 Report: Biden hits the ground running on COVID MORE for transportation secretary. Livestreamhttps://bit.ly/37q4VUI 

1 p.m. EDT: The Hill is hosting a virtual event, “COVID-19, Tech and Economic Resilience. Details and how to watchhttps://bit.ly/3r5ozNA 

2 p.m. EST: Vice President Pence is holding a “Life is Winning” event in the South Court Auditorium. Livestreamhttps://bit.ly/2KqULua


Today is National “Chocolate Covered Anything” Day.

And to brighten your afternoon, here’s a cat with a rather unusual napping spot: https://bit.ly/2Kt8u3M