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Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

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Mitch McConnell. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

As Congress remains deadlocked on new stimulus funding, Senate Republicans are preparing to pass their own slimmed-down version of a bill this week — without Democrats.

Why it matters: Several weeks have now passed since key relief programs from the CARES Act expired and millions of Americans continue to struggle under the enormous weight of the pandemic.

  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he's skeptical Congress can reach a deal before November because "the cooperative spirit we had in March and April has dissipated as we’ve moved closer and closer to the election."
  • The price tag being discussed could fall between $500 billion–$700 billion, sources familiar with the talks say — far short of the $2.2 trillion Democrats demand.

Driving the news: Nearly every morning during recess, Senate Republicans had a call with the White House's top negotiators, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, to discuss the status of the stimulus talks and where the vastly opinionated conference can find common ground.

  • Most GOP senators, particularly those in competitive re-election races, agree that they need to do something to cushion the economic blow of the pandemic, despite largely disagreeing on what legislation should like.
  • The conference has 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.
  • "We have a focused, targeted solution that we hope the House would pass," Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) said Tuesday.

Between the lines: Many Senate Republicans privately expect this effort will fail but see the expected vote as a maneuver to put Democrats, who passed their $3 trillion HEROES Act in May, on defense.

  • "They would like to change the conversation and highlight the immediate needs in a skinny bill and force Democrats to essentially shoot it down," a Senate GOP aide told Axios.

The other side: "Republicans may call their proposal ‘skinny,’ but it would be more appropriate to call it ‘emaciated,'" Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer wrote in a letter to Senate Democrats on Thursday, saying Republicans "are trying to 'check the box' and give the appearance of action rather than actually meet the truly profound needs of the American people."

Go deeper

Dec 13, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Some House Republicans plan last ditch challenge to election results during Electoral College tally

Rep. Mo Brooks. Credit: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Several Trump allies, led by Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.), plan to challenge the election results on Jan. 6, when Congress convenes to officially tally the votes from the Electoral College and certify Joe Biden as the president-elect.

Why it matters: Trump has refused to concede the election and has repeated false allegations of mass voter fraud while losing dozens of court cases. The challenges Brooks plans to bring up in Congress are extremely unlikely to change the outcome, but they will be another high profile effort on the part of some Republicans to invalidate millions of votes to overturn the election.

Biden's economic team will write a new crisis playbook

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Joe Biden's economic team faces a daunting task helping the millions of Americans who have lost their jobs or otherwise been financially ravaged by the coronavirus. But most of them have first-hand crisis experience, dating back to when Barack Obama inherited a crumbling economy when he took office in 2009.

Why it matters: Most of President-elect Biden's economic nominees served in the Obama administration, and wish that they could have gone bigger to help America recover from the 2008 financial crisis. But it's not going to be easy for them to push through massive fiscal spending in 2021.

Dec 14, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Early voting begins in Georgia's key Senate runoffs

Voters line outside the High Museum polling station in Atlanta, Georgia on the first day of voting in the state's Senate runoffs. Photo: Jessica McGowan/Getty Images

People lined up outside polling places across Georgia on Monday for the first day of early voting in the state's two runoff elections that will determine which party controls the U.S. Senate.

The big picture: More than 1.2 million people have already requested mail-in absentee ballots and more than 260,000 have returned them as of Monday, per data compiled by the U.S. Elections Project.

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