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Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y) denounced Senate Republicans' plan to introduce a pared-down coronavirus stimulus bill on Tuesday, saying the "emaciated" bill "is headed nowhere."

Why it matters: Weeks after the expiration of key stimulus components from the CARES Act, like expanded unemployment benefits for millions of Americans, congressional leaders appear no closer to a deal on the next round of relief.

The state of play, via Axios' Alayna Treene: Senate Republicans have decided that they can get behind a narrow, scaled back package that addresses only the key issues with widespread GOP support, including more money for schools, widespread liability protections and restructured unemployment benefits.

  • Many Senate Republicans privately expect their slimmed-down bill to fail, but see the expected vote as a maneuver to put Democrats, who passed their $3 trillion HEROES Act in May, on defense.

What they're saying: "If anyone doubts [Senate Majority Leader Mitch] McConnell’s true intent is anything but political, just look at the bill. This proposal is laden with poison pills Republicans know Democrats would never support," Pelosi and Schumer said in their statement.

  • They added that the bill is "only intended to help vulnerable Republican senators by giving them a 'check the box' vote to maintain the appearance that they’re not held hostage by their extreme right-wing that doesn’t want to spend a nickel to help people."

The other side: "It does not contain every idea our party likes," McConnell said in a statement of his own on Tuesday.

  • "I am confident Democrats will feel the same. Yet Republicans believe the many serious differences between our two parties should not stand in the way of agreeing where we can agree and making law that helps our nation."

Go deeper

Manchin: GOP leadership will use bipartisan bill as framework for stimulus deal

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-West Va.). Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

The bipartisan group of senators working on an economic stimulus deal have received assurances from Senate GOP leadership that their $748 billion proposal will be used as the framework for a relief package that Congress hopes to pass by the end of the week, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) tells the Axios Re:Cap podcast.

Why it matters: This is the most compromise we've seen from Congress to date in trying to pass a new round of economic stimulus, as the country grapples with its worst-ever surge of COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations and deaths.

Dec 15, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: McConnell alerted White House before congratulating Biden

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell walks with White House chief of staff Mark Meadows. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called White House chief of staff Mark Meadows Tuesday morning to say he planned on congratulating Joe Biden on winning the Electoral College and would officially address him as president-elect on the Senate floor, two sources familiar with the call tell Axios.

Why it matters: The Senate leader had resisted public demands to acknowledge Biden's victory despite the president's losing court battles, holding off until electors had formally given Biden the 270 votes he needed to secure his win on Monday. The delay underscored that McConnell still needs President Trump to back must-pass legislation before leaving office, one of the sources said.

Mitch, the muscle

Mitch McConnell walks to the Senate floor in July. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is muscling out President Trump as the dominant day-to-day Republican powerbroker on Capitol Hill. 

Why it matters: Trump’s power persists, and will live on post-presidency. But McConnell — in his cunningly quiet but methodical way — is flexing his authority. It's a taste of a tension that will help define the next four years.