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Top GOP senator: Relief deal unlikely before government funding set to expire

Senate Majority Whip John ThuneJohn Randolph Thune'The era of bipartisanship is over': Senate hits rough patch Bipartisan talks sow division among Democrats Senate passes long-delayed China bill MORE (R-S.D.) says it’s looking increasingly unlikely that negotiators will reach a coronavirus relief deal by 12 a.m. Saturday, when government funding is due to expire.

Thune also warned that getting unanimous consent to keep the government open with a short-term funding bill may prove to be a “heavy lift.”

“That would be a triumph of hope over experience to think that we might get a deal yet today,” he told reporters Friday afternoon. “Best-case scenario of getting something voted on was probably going to be Sunday but it may be later than that.”

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He also said that it could be difficult to get consent to pass a stopgap funding measure to keep the government open until next week.

“That in and of itself could prove to be a pretty heavy lift,” he said, adding a shutdown “would be a likely conclusion” if there’s not unanimous consent on keeping the government open.

Sen. Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleyConcerns grow over China's Taiwan plans GOP's attacks on Fauci at center of pandemic message Colonial Pipeline CEO grilled over ransomware attack MORE (R-Mo.) earlier in the day threatened to withhold consent for a stopgap funding measure unless leaders provided more detail on the state of negotiations over coronavirus relief. He did so after Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonHillicon Valley: House targets tech giants with antitrust bills | Oversight chair presses JBS over payment to hackers | Trump spokesman to join tech company | YouTube suspends GOP senator YouTube suspends Ron Johnson for 7 days GOP senators introduce bill to make Iran deal subject to Senate approval MORE (R-Wis.) blocked his request to unanimously approve $1,200 stimulus checks for Americans earning up to $75,000.

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi: 'No intention' of abandoning Democrats' infrastructure goals Senate investigation of insurrection falls short Ocasio-Cortez: 'Old way of politics' influences Manchin's thinking MORE (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellWhat the Democrats should be doing to reach true bipartisanship Democrats mull overhaul of sweeping election bill McConnell seeks to divide and conquer Democrats MORE (R-Ky.), the two main negotiators, spoke by phone around 1 p.m. and their deputies said they would have a better idea of where the talks stand around 5 p.m.

Leaders had hoped to reach a deal on a $900 billion coronavirus relief package by close of business Friday and attach it to a $1.4 trillion year-end omnibus spending package.

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Their plan was to have a deal announced by Friday and to draft it and set it up for final votes on Saturday or Sunday. Now it looks like those votes may be postponed until next week.

“It’s coming together, it’s just taking time,” Thune said, describing the negotiations as “arduous work.”

One of the biggest obstacles is language being pushed by Sen. Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyBlack women look to build upon gains in coming elections Watch live: GOP senators present new infrastructure proposal Sasse rebuked by Nebraska Republican Party over impeachment vote MORE (R-Pa.) to wind down the Federal Reserve’s credit lending facilities.

“We have a lot of our members who believe that was for a temporary time [and] need to be ended. The Dems see it differently,” Thune said.

Republicans worry that if the Federal Reserve’s lending authorities continue into next year, the Biden administration could use it to fund cash-strapped state and local governments — something GOP senators oppose.

Thune said it would be “a likely conclusion” the government shuts down briefly if a senator objects to waiving procedural hurdles on the Senate floor Friday to pass a stopgap funding measure.

“There are members on both sides who are resistant to the idea of doing another [continuing resolution]. But if there’s good progress on the deal and it looks likely they’ll be able to announce something soon, hopefully the Christmas spirit will kick in,” he said.