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Senate GOP to include Postal Service funds in smaller coronavirus relief bill

Senate Republicans are preparing to unveil a smaller coronavirus relief package as soon as Tuesday that is expected to include billions in new funds for the Postal Service. 

In addition to $10 billion in post office funding, the Republican proposal is expected to include liability protections, a $300-per-week federal unemployment benefit, another round of Paycheck Protection Program funding, and additional money for coronavirus testing and schools, according to aides. 

The bill is a pared-down version of the roughly $1 trillion package offered by Senate Republicans late last month, known as the HEALS Act, and comes as House Democrats are drafting their own stand-alone Postal Service bill. 

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellLoeffler meets with McConnell amid speculation of another Senate run Manchin opens door to supporting scaled-down election reform bill Pelosi, Schumer must appoint new commissioners to the CARES Act oversight panel MORE (R-Ky.) indicated while speaking in Kentucky earlier on Monday that Republicans and the administration were willing to direct roughly $10 billion in additional funding to the post office as part of coronavirus relief. 

"The Postal Service is going to be just fine. We're going to make sure that the ability to function going into the election is not adversely affected," McConnell told reporters in Kentucky

McConnell added that the $10 billion supported by the administration would be used "just to make sure the post office is on good firm footing going into the November election."

Where the GOP proposal — the details of which were first reported by Politico — goes from here is unclear. But GOP senators have been quietly discussing tying coronavirus relief to a stop-gap government funding bill that they have to pass by Sept. 30 in order to prevent a shutdown roughly a month before the November election. 

Negotiations on a fifth, larger coronavirus bill have stalemated since earlier this month when talks between congressional Democrats, Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven MnuchinDemocrats justified in filibustering GOP, says Schumer Yellen provides signature for paper currency Biden's name will not appear on stimulus checks, White House says MORE and White House chief of staff Mark MeadowsMark MeadowsThe Hill's Morning Report - Dems to go-it-alone on infrastructure as bipartisan plan falters Trump, allies pressured DOJ to back election claims, documents show Trump endorsement shakes up GOP Senate primary in NC MORE unraveled. 

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The House is set to return on Saturday to vote on its bill related to the Postal Service. Though House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerHouse passes political spending, climate change corporate disclosures bill House to vote Wednesday on making Juneteenth a federal holiday Democrats seek staffer salary boost to compete with K Street MORE (D-Md.) indicated earlier Monday that the details of the Democratic bill were still being finalized, it is expected to include $25 billion in new funding, similar to what was included in a more than $3 trillion bill passed by the House in May. 

Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerSenate panel unanimously advances key Biden cyber nominees Overnight Energy: Schumer to trigger reconciliation process Wednesday | Bipartisan bill would ban 'forever chemicals' in cosmetics | Biden admin eyes step toward Trump-era proposal for uranium reserve GOP senator: I want to make Biden a 'one-half-term president' MORE (D-N.Y.), are calling on McConnell to bring the Senate back into session early. The Senate isn't currently scheduled to return to Washington, D.C., until Sept. 8. 

McConnell gave no indication while speaking in Kentucky on Monday that he intended to bring lawmakers back sooner. Instead, he defended the decision to let the Senate leave town without a coronavirus deal, noting that the House was already gone and that most senators are not directly involved in the negotiations.

And Meadows, speaking to reporters on Monday, appeared to shoot down the idea of doing a stand-alone Postal Service bill, calling it "unrealistic" and "unnecessary." Any bill that passes the House largely along party lines is unlikely to be taken up in the GOP-controlled Senate.

The president is "willing to provide money for the Post office as long as it is included in some other skinny measure if we cannot agree to a larger deal," he added.