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

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellCan Manchin answer his predecessor's call on voting rights? Biden at Sen. John Warner's funeral: He 'gave me confidence' Democrats' narrow chance to retain control after 2022 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 PelosiSchumer vows to advance two-pronged infrastructure plan next month Senators say White House aides agreed to infrastructure 'framework' Tim Cook called Pelosi to say tech antitrust bills were rushed MORE (D-Calif.) and 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 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 BluntThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Senate to vote on elections bill Congress barrels toward debt cliff Excellence Act will expand mental health and substance use treatment access to millions 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 SchumerDemocrats urge Biden to extend moratorium on student loan payments White House draws ire of progressives amid voting rights defeat Murkowski to vote 'no' on voting rights bill 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."