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 Terner MnuchinHouseholds, businesses fall into financial holes as COVID aid dries up Centrist Democrats got their COVID bill, now they want a vote The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Republicans lawmakers rebuke Trump on election MORE and White House chief of staff Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsSunday Shows: Trump's court pick dominates Former Homeland Security Secretary Johnson: 'Disconcerting' to see Trump, Meadows cast doubt on election security Meadows: 'There are different degrees of confidence' in FBI director MORE have been negotiating a bill for roughly a week with House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi preparing for House to decide presidency if neither Trump or Biden win electoral college: report Trump seeks boost from seniors with 0 drug discount coupons GOP senators confident Trump pick to be confirmed by November MORE (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerDemocrats blast Trump after report reveals he avoided income taxes for 10 years: 'Disgusting' Biden refuses to say whether he would support expanding Supreme Court Schumer says Trump tweet shows court pick meant to kill off ObamaCare 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 MurkowskiDurbin: Democrats can 'slow' Supreme Court confirmation 'perhaps a matter of hours, maybe days at most' Senate GOP set to vote on Trump's Supreme Court pick before election Supreme Court fight pushes Senate toward brink 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 PortmanMcConnell locks down key GOP votes in Supreme Court fight Romney undecided on authorizing subpoenas for GOP Obama-era probes Congress needs to prioritize government digital service delivery 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.