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 MnuchinOn The Money: Schumer urges Democrats to stick together on .9T bill | Collins rules out GOP support for Biden relief plan | Powell fights inflation fears Mnuchin expected to launch investment fund seeking backing from Persian Gulf region: report Larry Kudlow debuts to big ratings on Fox Business Network MORE and White House chief of staff Mark MeadowsMark MeadowsHow scientists saved Trump's FDA from politics Liberals howl after Democrats cave on witnesses Kinzinger calls for people with info on Trump to come forward MORE have been negotiating a bill for roughly a week with House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiMcCarthy: 'I would bet my house' GOP takes back lower chamber in 2022 After vote against coronavirus relief package, Golden calls for more bipartisanship in Congress Democrats don't trust GOP on 1/6 commission: 'These people are dangerous' MORE (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerThe bizarre back story of the filibuster Hillicon Valley: Biden signs order on chips | Hearing on media misinformation | Facebook's deal with Australia | CIA nominee on SolarWinds House Rules release new text of COVID-19 relief bill 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 MurkowskiGraham: Trump will 'be helpful' to all Senate GOP incumbents The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by The AIDS Institute - Senate ref axes minimum wage, House votes today on relief bill Republicans see Becerra as next target in confirmation wars 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 PortmanSunday shows preview: 2024 hopefuls gather at CPAC; House passes coronavirus relief; vaccine effort continues Grassley to vote against Tanden nomination Murkowski undecided on Tanden as nomination in limbo 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.