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McConnell 'more optimistic' about a coronavirus relief deal

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSchumer: Impeachment trial will be quick, doesn't need a lot of witnesses McConnell: Power-sharing deal can proceed after Manchin, Sinema back filibuster Budowsky: A Biden-McConnell state of emergency summit MORE (R-Ky.) said Friday morning that he is feeling “more optimistic” than the day before about congressional leaders reaching a deal on a $900 billion coronavirus relief bill soon. 

McConnell said leaders “have been working around the clock for several days now” and are very close to finalizing an agreement.  

“The talks remain productive. In fact, I am even more optimistic now than I was last night that a bipartisan, bicameral framework for a major rescue package is close at hand,” McConnell said on the Senate floor. 

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The GOP leader appeared frustrated at the pace of talks Thursday afternoon when he vowed that Congress would remain in session, possibly through Christmas, until a deal is completed and scheduled votes on a series of Trump nominees over the weekend. 

“We're staying right here until COVID relief is out the door. In the meantime, we're going to stay productive … we should expect continuing votes on nominations throughout the weekend,” McConnell said on the floor Thursday afternoon.

Earlier in the day he warned: “We’re near the point in this process where we decide if we’re going to stay on the fast track or drift back towards business as usual.” 

Congressional leaders are racing to complete a coronavirus deal before government funding is due to expire at 12 a.m. Saturday morning. They hope to attach the $900 billion package to a $1.4 trillion year-end omnibus spending bill to keep the federal government funded. 

The emerging deal is expected to include $600 to $700 stimulus checks for individuals, $325 billion for the Small Business Administration, nearly $100 billion to help schools and colleges reopen, $16 billion for vaccine distribution and testing, money for health care providers and relief for the airlines and other hard-hit industries. 

Leaders are also discussing a $90 billion fund to be administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to distribute to state and local governments, money for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and rental assistance. 

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Congressional leaders acknowledged Thursday that they may need to pass another short-term funding resolution to keep the government open through the weekend and possibly into the early part of next week.

McConnell on Friday reiterated that he will continue to process Trump nominees over the weekend, ratcheting up pressure on Democrats to agree to a deal. 

"Like I’ve said, the Senate will be right here until an agreement is passed, whenever that may be.

“We’ll just continue voting. There are more well-qualified nominees for important posts that we can confirm in the meantime,” he said.