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McConnell: 'Cooperation and focus' needed to finalize COVID-19 deal

McConnell: 'Cooperation and focus' needed to finalize COVID-19 deal
© Greg Nash

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump shows he holds stranglehold on GOP, media in CPAC barnburner Trump rules out starting a new party: 'Fake news' Sunday shows - Trump's reemergence, COVID-19 vaccines and variants dominate MORE (R-Ky.) on Saturday warned against dragging out coronavirus talks as negotiators race to try to finalize a deal by the end of the day.

"We need cooperation and focus from all sides. There's a kind of gravitational pull here in Congress where unless we are careful any major negotiation can easily slide into an unending catalogue of disagreements. Let's guard against that," McConnell said from the Senate floor.

McConnell offered praise for House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiTrump shows he holds stranglehold on GOP, media in CPAC barnburner Biden brings back bipartisan meetings at the White House McCarthy: 'I would bet my house' GOP takes back lower chamber in 2022 MORE (D-Calif.) and other congressional leaders, saying their talks had included a "good faith spirit."

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But the GOP leader added that it was time to wrap up the talks.

"The American people cannot feed their families or pay their bills with Congress's good faith discussions. They need us to act. We need to conclude our talks, draft legislation and land this plane," McConnell said.

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerThe bizarre back story of the filibuster Hillicon Valley: Biden signs order on chips | Hearing on media misinformation | Facebook's deal with Australia | CIA nominee on SolarWinds House Rules release new text of COVID-19 relief bill MORE (D-N.Y.) added on Saturday that negotiators are "running out of time." 

"I agree with the Republican leader on this. We need to deliver an outcome and deliver it quickly," he said. 

The Senate is holding a rare weekend session as congressional leaders try to clinch a deal that would tie $900 billion in coronavirus relief to $1.4 trillion to fund the government after talks dragged out for days. Congress bought itself more time by passing a two-day continuing resolution that will keep the government open through Sunday. 

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Asked about the potential for a deal by the end of Saturday, McConnell told reporters as he was exiting the floor, "Sure hope so." Schumer also said that he thought there was interest among leadership "to finalize an agreement very soon." 

Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven MnuchinBiden brings back bipartisan meetings at the White House On The Money: Schumer urges Democrats to stick together on .9T bill | Collins rules out GOP support for Biden relief plan | Powell fights inflation fears Mnuchin expected to launch investment fund seeking backing from Persian Gulf region: report MORE is poised to brief Senate Republicans early Saturday afternoon. 

But there are several sticking points congressional negotiators are still trying to work out that have slowed down the final stage of the talks.

A push by Sen. Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeySasse rebuked by Nebraska Republican Party over impeachment vote Philly GOP commissioner on censures: 'I would suggest they censure Republican elected officials who are lying' Toomey censured by several Pennsylvania county GOP committees over impeachment vote MORE (R-Pa.) to include language in the bill codifying the end of an emergency federal lending facility and preventing the incoming Biden administration from restarting it has emerged as a major sticking point for Democrats.

Schumer, on Saturday, said leadership was making progress on every issue except Toomey's request. 

"This is something that only materialized in the past few days and would leave the Treasury and the Fed with less authority than it had even prior to the pandemic," Schumer said. 

Negotiators are also still trying to work out funding to help entertainment venues amid a push to expand that funding to zoos and other tourism-driven businesses. And Republicans are wary of adding a $90 billion pot of money for the Federal Emergency Management Agency that they worry is a back door for adding money for state and local governments.

The earliest Congress would vote on a deal, even if it's reached on Saturday, is Sunday afternoon, when the House is scheduled to reconvene.

But Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneRick Scott acknowledges Biden 'absolutely' won fair election After vote against aid package, Golden calls for more bipartisanship Graham: Trump will 'be helpful' to all Senate GOP incumbents MORE (R-S.D.), McConnell's No. 2, indicated that as talks drag on the timeline is slipping further into next week and closer to the Christmas holiday.

"I'm still somewhat hopeful if the House moves quickly, and if we got it, take it up and do it tomorrow night," Thune said on Saturday. "But I would say it's also very possible that it runs into Monday." 

Updated: 12:50 p.m.