Senators holding behind-the-scenes talks on breaking coronavirus package stalemate

Several GOP senators said on Tuesday that they are holding behind-the-scenes talks with rank-and-file Democrats about how to break the stalemate on a fifth coronavirus relief package. 

Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven MnuchinThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Goldman Sachs - Biden rallies Senate Dems behind mammoth spending plan Mnuchin dodges CNBC questions on whether Trump lying over election Democrats justified in filibustering GOP, says Schumer MORE and White House chief of staff Mark MeadowsMark MeadowsWashington Post calls on Democrats to subpoena Kushner, Ivanka Trump, Meadows for testimony on Jan. 6 Trump to Pence on Jan. 6: 'You don't have the courage' Trump said whoever leaked information about stay in White House bunker should be 'executed,' author claims MORE have been negotiating a bill for roughly a week with House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiTim Ryan slams McCarthy for mocking Capitol physician, mask mandate McCarthy knocks Pelosi, mask mandate: 'This House has broken the country's trust' Senate votes to take up infrastructure deal MORE (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerBiden to meet with 11 Democratic lawmakers on DACA: report Schumer's moment to transform transit and deepen democracy Pelosi, Schumer vow climate action: 'It is an imperative' MORE (D-N.Y.) with little progress toward an agreement. 

"I've been talking to members on the other side of the aisle about what we might do as individual members to help facilitate a little more progress," Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiThe 17 Republicans who voted to advance the Senate infrastructure bill Senate votes to take up infrastructure deal The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Officers give grueling, horrific accounts of Jan. 6 MORE (R-Alaska) told reporters as she headed into the GOP lunch.  


Murkowski said she felt "discouragement" at Congress being three days from the start of a recess without more answers about how a deal comes together. 

Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanThe 17 Republicans who voted to advance the Senate infrastructure bill Senate votes to take up infrastructure deal Trump slams Romney, Senate GOP over infrastructure deal MORE (R-Ohio) separately told reporters that he was "working behind the scenes, including now with some Democrats, on trying to get something done on UI [unemployment insurance], whether it's a return to work bonus or something else."  

How successful senators will be at trying to push their leadership closer to an agreement is unclear. Democrats have largely been unified in the negotiations over the fifth bill, and any deal would still need approval from Mnuchin and Meadows, as well as leadership.

A GOP senator said that Democrats are "floating different ideas" as part of the rank-and-file talks.

The push by senators not directly involved in the leadership-White House level negotiations comes as lawmakers are becoming increasingly frustrated by the slow pace of talks. 

The administration officials and Democratic leadership have both described talks held on Saturday and Monday as productive but have warned that they remain far from an agreement.  

"I believe we're making progress. We came closer on several issues. However, we remain far apart on a number of issues, but we're finally moving in the right direction," Schumer said from the Senate floor on Tuesday.