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McConnell pushing for 'highly targeted' COVID-19 relief deal

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellHarris says she has 'not yet' spoken to Pence Kamala Harris, Stacey Abrams among nominees for Time magazine's 2020 Person of the Year Feinstein departure from top post sets stage for Judiciary fight MORE (R-Ky.) said Tuesday he believes Congress needs to pass a "highly targeted" coronavirus relief deal, similar to the roughly $500 billion GOP bill that was blocked earlier this year.

McConnell's comments underscore that the price tag remains the biggest hurdle for any potential deal, with a dispute regarding the size of a package looming over any hopes of clinching a deal before the end of the year.

"I don't think the current situation demands a multitrillion-dollar package. So I think it should be highly targeted, very similar to what I put on the floor both in October and September," McConnell told reporters.

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McConnell added in reference to differences on the price tag that "it seems to be that snag that hung us up for months is still there."

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.) and Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinOn 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 The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - Trump OKs transition; Biden taps Treasury, State experience MORE have largely taken the lead in the months-long talks over a fifth coronavirus deal, though they have not been able to reach an agreement.

After letting the administration take the lead in negotiations, GOP senators say McConnell is expected to have a more direct role in the next stretch of talks.

White House adviser Larry KudlowLarry KudlowMORE told reporters on Friday that the administration was currently focusing its coronavirus discussions on the GOP leader and not on restarting talks with Democrats.

Though leadership in both parties say they want to get a fifth deal, there remain deep differences that are already throwing that prospect into doubt.

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"Well, I think both sides are saying they want one. But both sides are saying they want the one they want. So we'll see. Maybe I'm maybe a little better than I would have thought before the election. But I still think the lame-duck is hard," said Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntMcConnell wants deal this week on fiscal 2021 spending figures Graham becomes center of Georgia storm Republicans start turning the page on Trump era MORE (Mo.), a member of GOP leadership.

Democratic leadership, so far, has not indicated that they are open to doing a bill closer to the price tag advocated by Republicans.

House Democrats initially passed a $3.4 trillion bill before dropping their price tag to $2.2 trillion. Senate Republicans, meanwhile, initially offered a $1.1 trillion package before going down to roughly $500 billion amid steep pushback from conservatives.

"It doesn't appeal to me at all, because they still have not agreed to crush the virus. ... So, no, that isn't anything that we should even be looking at," Pelosi told reporters on Friday when asked about Republicans saying they are interested in a smaller bill.

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerUS national security policy in the 117th Congress and a new administration Voters say Biden should make coronavirus vaccine a priority: poll New York City subway service could be slashed 40 percent, officials warn MORE (D-N.Y.) added on Tuesday that "McConnell and Senate Republicans must come to the table in good faith and work with us on a bipartisan bill that meets the needs of all our country."