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McConnell urges White House not to strike stimulus deal before election

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has urged White House negotiators not to cut a deal with Democrats on new coronavirus stimulus before the election.

Driving the news: McConnell informed Senate Republicans of the move at a closed-door lunch on Tuesday, two people familiar with his remarks tell Axios. McConnell's remarks were first reported by the Washington Post.

Why it matters: Any agreement between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, the White House's top stimulus negotiator, would likely be shot down by Senate Republicans — which could put GOP incumbents in tight races in an even more precarious spot just days away from Nov. 3.

What we're hearing: McConnell told his conference that he signaled to the White House that Pelosi isn't willing to give enough and isn't negotiating in good faith, the two sources said.

  • He also voiced concerns about any distraction to the Senate's plans to confirm Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, which he plans to hold a vote on next Monday.

Yes, but: Hours after the Senate GOP lunch, Pelosi and Mnuchin — who dialed in from Israel — spoke again and are moving "closer to an agreement," Pelosi's deputy chief of staff Drew Hammill said.

  • "[B]oth sides are serious about finding a compromise," Hammill added. "The two principals will continue their discussions tomorrow afternoon upon the Secretary's return."

Between the lines: President Trump wants "a big deal" before Nov. 3, and has indicated his willingness to spend several trillion dollars as he seeks re-election.

  • But that idea faces strong opposition from Republicans wary of another massive pandemic relief package.
  • Mnuchin is widely seen by many GOP lawmakers as someone who is too willing to compromise with Democrats and give in to Pelosi's demands.

What's next: GOP senators want to save face by voting on a smaller, more targeted $500 billion relief bill this week. But the move is largely about optics and Democrats have said it's too small to garner their support.

Go deeper: McConnell says stimulus "unlikely" before election despite Trump's desperation

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