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McConnell shores up GOP support for coronavirus package

Senate Republicans appear to be largely unifying behind a scaled-down coronavirus relief package, with several GOP senators on Wednesday saying they will vote for a smaller proposal.

GOP leaders want at least 51 of their 53 members to vote for the coronavirus bill — a symbolic victory that would allow them to project unity on the issue despite the legislation not being able to get the 60 votes needed to ultimately pass the Senate.

"I’m optimistic we’ll have a good vote on our side," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOn The Money: Power players play chess match on COVID-19 aid | Pelosi bullish, Trump tempers optimism | Analysis: Nearly 1M have run out of jobless benefits Trump casts doubt on hopes for quick stimulus deal after aides expressed optimism Power players play chess match on COVID-19 aid MORE (R-Ky.) told reporters after a closed-door lunch while declining to say if he had locked down at least 51 Republican votes.

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Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneGOP coronavirus bill blocked as deal remains elusive Clyburn predicts action on coronavirus relief after elections GOP to Trump: Focus on policy MORE (S.D.), the No. 2 Republican senator, said leaders were "optimistic" they would have the votes.

“We remain hopeful, and we’ll see where the vote comes out," he added.

GOP leaders are voicing increased confidence that they will be able to put up a majority for the bill after it was unveiled earlier this week. It is the second such bill put forward by Republicans.

The legislation includes a $300-per-week federal unemployment benefit, another round of Paycheck Protection Program funds, more money for testing and schools, and liability protections against coronavirus-related lawsuits.

Asked if McConnell had told them he has 51 GOP votes, Sen. Kevin CramerKevin John CramerGOP cool to White House's .6T coronavirus price tag Romney calls first Trump-Biden debate 'an embarrassment' Netflix distances from author's comments about Muslim Uyghurs but defends project MORE (R-N.D.) said, "Let me put it this way: The goal has always been to get to that number, of course. We're having the vote ... and he's optimistic about tomorrow being a good vote."

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Several GOP senators who had been deeply critical of the $1.1 trillion bill that Republicans unveiled in July said on Wednesday that they would be supporting the smaller bill, which is expected to be roughly half as much.

Sens. Ben SasseBenjamin (Ben) Eric SasseSweden bans use of Huawei, ZTE equipment in new 5G networks McConnell aims for unity amid growing divisions with Trump Cornyn: Relationships with Trump like 'women who get married and think they're going to change their spouse' MORE (R-Neb.), Mike BraunMichael BraunGOP to Trump: Focus on policy GOP lawmakers gloomy, back on defense after debate fiasco Romney calls first Trump-Biden debate 'an embarrassment' MORE (R-Ind.) and Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzQuinnipiac poll finds Biden, Trump tied in Texas China could cut our access to critical minerals at any time — here's why we need to act The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Goldman Sachs - Two weeks out, Trump attempts to rally the base MORE (R-Texas), who were each critical of the July package, said on Wednesday that they would support the latest measure.

"Several conservative senators had gotten together over the last 10 days to two weeks and were interested in something that was going to get the figure down to $300 to $500 billion. So the top line was always my main concern," Braun said about his decision to support the new bill.

That added support comes after leadership was also able to secure the backing of GOP Sens. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeEnd the American military presence in Somalia Ted Cruz won't wear mask to speak to reporters at Capitol Michigan Republican isolating after positive coronavirus test MORE (Utah), Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonTrump and advisers considering firing FBI director after election: WaPo Biden: Johnson should be 'ashamed' for suggesting family profited from their name Graham wants to review ActBlue's source of small-dollar contributions MORE (Wis.) and Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyAppeals court rules NSA's bulk phone data collection illegal Dunford withdraws from consideration to chair coronavirus oversight panel GOP senators push for quick, partial reopening of economy MORE (Pa.), who had also been critical of the July bill.

Johnson, explaining his decision to support the latest bill, specifically pointed to language included in the plan that provides the ability to recoup unspent money from the $2.2 trillion CARES Act passed in March.

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“It’s something I hope 53 Republican senators vote yes on,” Johnson said, adding that Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinTrump and advisers considering firing FBI director after election: WaPo Trump casts doubt on hopes for quick stimulus deal after aides expressed optimism Power players play chess match on COVID-19 aid MORE “accommodated” some of his concerns about the initial GOP bill.

Republicans are hoping to unite around a smaller bill amid broader negotiations between Democrats and the Trump administration over a fifth coronavirus relief package, with talks stalled for weeks amid deep disagreements over its size.

So far, only GOP Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulMichigan Republican isolating after positive coronavirus test GOP Rep. Mike Bost tests positive for COVID-19 Top Democrats introduce resolution calling for mask mandate, testing program in Senate MORE (Ky.) has indicated that he will vote against the new Republican plan. That caps potential Republican support at 52 of the 53 Republican senators.

Sen. Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleyJustice Department charges Google with illegally maintaining search monopoly Conservatives seize on New York Post story to push Section 230 reform Hillicon Valley: Trump refuses to condemn QAnon | Twitter revises its policy, lets users share disputed article | Google sees foreign cyber threats MORE (R-Mo.), who is pushing for tax credits related to home schooling, has not yet said how he will vote and is viewed as the one significant remaining holdout. He told reporters earlier Wednesday that he was undecided.

Other GOP senators indicated that they were still reviewing the bill but were likely to support it on Thursday's procedural hurdle, where it will need 60 votes.

"I'm still reading the bill," said Sen. John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (R-La.). "But assuming there’s no spending porn inserted in there that we’re not familiar, with I’m going to be a yes."