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GOP noncommittal about vote on potential Trump-Pelosi coronavirus deal

GOP noncommittal about vote on potential Trump-Pelosi coronavirus deal
© Greg Nash

Top Senate Republicans are noncommittal about taking up a big coronavirus deal between congressional Democrats and the administration.

Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinBiden's Treasury pick will have lengthy to-do list on taxes On The Money: Initial jobless claims rise for 2nd week | Dow dips below 30K | Mnuchin draws fire for COVID-19 relief move | Manhattan DA appeals dismissal of Manafort charges Mnuchin to put 5B in COVID-19 relief funds beyond successor's reach MORE and House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiGovernors take heat for violating their own coronavirus restrictions Spending deal clears obstacle in shutdown fight Ocasio-Cortez, Cruz trade jabs over COVID-19 relief: People 'going hungry as you tweet from' vacation MORE (D-Calif.) are negotiating a deal between $1.8 trillion and $2.2 trillion.

But GOP senators are giving the price tag a cool reception, underscoring the headache the administration will face if they need to win Republican support before the November election. 

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Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneRepublicans ready to become deficit hawks again under a President Biden Democrats brush off calls for Biden to play hardball on Cabinet picks Overnight Defense: Pentagon set for tighter virus restrictions as top officials tests positive | Military sees 11th COVID-19 death | House Democrats back Senate language on Confederate base names MORE (S.D.), the No. 2 Senate Republican, predicted that it would be “hard” to get enough GOP support to pass a bill that would be $1.8 trillion or higher.

“My guess is the leader is going to want to see some evidence that whatever is agreed upon has Republican support to try to convince Republicans over here to be for it,” he said. 

“Their natural instinct depending on how big it is and what's in it is probably going to be to be against it,” Thune added. 

Asked if he would advocate for a preelection vote, Sen. John CornynJohn CornynCornyn says election outcome 'becoming increasingly clear': report Top GOP senator: Biden should be getting intel briefings GOP senator congratulates Biden, says Trump should accept results MORE (R-Texas), an adviser to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBiden's climate plans can cut emissions and also be good politics Acting Defense secretary makes surprise trip to Somalia As Biden administration ramps up, Trump legal effort drags on MORE (R-Ky.), hedged, saying Republicans would need to talk about what’s in the bill.

“Depending on what’s in it, I don’t know what sort of support it would get,” Cornyn said.

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The hesitancy comes as McConnell hasn’t committed to bringing any deal reached between Pelosi and Mnuchin up for a vote. 

McConnell last week appeared to pour cold water on a deal the size of what’s currently being discussed between Pelosi and Mnuchin. 

“I don’t think so. That’s where the administration is willing to go. My members think half a trillion dollars, highly targeted, is the best way to go," McConnell said, asked in Kentucky about the prospect of a deal between $1.8 trillion and $2.2 trillion. 

He added on Saturday that he would “consider” a bipartisan deal without directly addressing if it would get a vote.

Asked about the prospect on Monday, McConnell demurred.

“I think I addressed that a couple days ago,” McConnell said. 

The GOP's hands-off stance comes as leadership faces significant pushback on how much to spend on coronavirus relief. Republicans initially introduced a $1.1 trillion package and McConnell warned that it could lose up to 20 GOP senators. It never came up for a vote. 

Fifty-two GOP senators then supported a $500 billion deal. Senate Republicans are set to vote on a bill of a similar size again this week. 

Asked if a price tag between $1.8 trillion to $2.2 trillion would be too much, Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyThe Memo: GOP mulls its future after Trump Biden teams to meet with Trump administration agencies Paul Ryan calls for Trump to accept results: 'The election is over' MORE (R-Utah), while saying that he would want to know what’s in it, said “the answer is yes, that’s too high.”

Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyRep. Rick Allen tests positive for COVID-19 On The Money: Biden to nominate Yellen for Treasury secretary | 'COVID cliff' looms | Democrats face pressure to back smaller stimulus Loeffler to continue to self-isolate after conflicting COVID-19 test results MORE (R-Iowa), asked if he would support giving a larger deal a vote, argued the focus should be on the bill being worked on by Senate Republicans.

“You gotta get this process going. You just can’t have the president talking to Pelosi,” Grassley said. “There’s a hundred other people involved.”