Kelsey Snell

Updated at 6:17 p.m. ET

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., says a measure that would increase direct payments to many Americans has "no realistic path to quickly pass the Senate."

McConnell is moving ahead with a plan to avoid a public rift within the GOP over stimulus payments demanded by President Trump ahead of a critical runoff election in Georgia.

Congressional leaders returned to familiar ground Saturday, digging in on opposite sides of a stalemate over a coronavirus relief package they all say is badly needed to help millions of Americans struggling this holiday season.

Updated at 10:27 p.m. ET

Agreement on a bipartisan coronavirus relief package remains elusive as top congressional leaders continue to negotiate and their efforts spilled into the weekend. While they've had a framework for days, they are struggling to close out several details, and a new issue emerged as a key sticking point.

Lawmakers from both parties insist they will not leave Washington for the holidays until they get a deal that wraps together an aid package and a broader spending deal.

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Update at 12:27 p.m. ET

Congressional leaders are nearing an agreement on a roughly $900 billion COVID-19 relief package that is likely to include a fresh round of smaller stimulus checks, according to congressional aides familiar with the talks.

Negotiations are ongoing and nothing is finalized, but leaders were optimistic following a lengthy negotiating session on Tuesday night.

Updated at 7:13 p.m. ET

After facing a series of delays, the Senate approved by voice vote a one-week temporary funding measure Friday afternoon to avert a government shutdown hours before a critical deadline.

The president signed the bill Friday evening. Without it, federal agencies would have run out of money at midnight Friday.

The Senate's move came as Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent, relented on his demands to vote first on a measure to allow direct payments to Americans.

Updated at 8 p.m. ET

Congressional leaders remain at odds over the details of a coronavirus relief bill despite efforts to speed to a resolution before several existing programs expire at the end of the month.

Updated at 4:52 p.m. ET

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer say a $908 billion coronavirus relief proposal should be the starting point for bipartisan aid.

It is the first time Pelosi, D-Calif., and Schumer, D-N.Y., have accepted any COVID-19 legislation other than the $2.2 trillion bill that passed the House of Representatives in October. But their shift to the moderates' plan comes after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., already rejected the bipartisan proposal.

As coronavirus cases spike across the country, Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, says he will participate in a Phase 3 COVID-19 vaccine trial.

Portman says he signed up for the clinical trial for a Janssen-Johnson & Johnson vaccine after receiving a briefing from a Cincinnati-based clinical trial consulting firm.

Updated at 10 a.m. ET

House Democrats started this month hoping, and preparing, to gain seats in the election. Instead, their once-robust majority in the House has dwindled, and Democrats are on track to begin next year with the slimmest majority in decades.

Now members on the progressive left and Democratic Party moderates are again at odds over whose policies won in 2020 and how they should govern as a party.

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Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan has won reelection in Alaska, giving Republicans 50 seats in the Senate and leaving the balance of power in the chamber to be decided in a pair of January runoff elections in Georgia.

The Associated Press called the race for Sullivan more than a week after Election Day after votes trickled in from remote areas of the vast state. Sullivan defeated Al Gross, a surgeon and first-time candidate who raised significant money with the help of national Democrats who hoped a blue wave could help flip the state and the Senate.

Updated at 5:30 p.m. ET on Nov. 11

Republican Sen. Thom Tillis has won reelection in North Carolina as Democratic challenger Cal Cunningham conceded on Tuesday. Democrats were hoping to oust Tillis and several other GOP incumbents and take control of the Senate next year, but this latest loss is part of what has become a Republican firewall in Southern and Western states that positions the party to retain its majority.

Cunningham said in a statement that he had called Tillis to congratulate him.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., leads a 232-to-197 Democratic majority in the House heading into the election. There are five current vacancies and one
Libertarian, former Republican Justin Amash, R-Mich., who left the party in 2019 in a clash over his plan to vote to impeach President Trump.

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Updated at 12:50 p.m. ET

Judge Amy Coney Barrett is set to give a glimpse of her judicial philosophy as her Supreme Court confirmation hearing begins in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday.

Updated at 12:52 p.m.

White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said Wednesday that he and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin are discussing potential stand-alone bills for aid to airlines, small businesses and Americans. He said the Trump administration was "still willing to be engaged" on piecemeal aid bills, though it was not optimistic about a comprehensive aid bill.

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Updated 1 a.m. ET Thursday

President Trump signed a short-term spending bill into law early Thursday, about an hour after current funding levels expired and averting a federal government shutdown.

Hours earlier the Senate voted 84-10 to approve the bill, which extends current funding levels and keeps the federal government open through Dec. 11

In theory, parts of the government were unfunded for about an hour, but the White House did not address the discrepancy in a brief statement following the signing.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is warning Democrats that they must win the majority, not just of the House of Representatives but a majority of each state delegation, in case the House is called upon to decide the election in January.

Republicans are rejecting a short-term spending bill released Monday after Democrats chose not to include federal farm assistance in the legislation which is meant to avert a government shutdown at the end of September.

There has been bipartisan agreement for weeks on the need for a basic spending stopgap. The disagreement over the bill released Monday means lawmakers have less than two weeks to reach an agreement before federal funding runs out.

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A central promise of last week's Republican National Convention was a pledge that President Trump would use a second term to build on elements of his first term, with very few updates and changes.

The four days of convention programming showed a Republican Party whose policies are bound to Trump. But GOP divisions over many of those policies prevented much of the 2016 Trump agenda from ever becoming law. And that dynamic was in place well before the coronavirus pandemic changed politics.

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NPR congressional correspondent Kelsey Snell has been listening to that hearing. Kelsey, good morning.

KELSEY SNELL, BYLINE: Good morning.

A pair of House Democrats are raising questions about whether a member of the U.S. Postal Service board of governors skirted typical practices to influence the hiring of Louis DeJoy as postmaster general.

One of a series of reports looking at Joe Biden's potential running mates.


California Rep. Karen Bass was a relative unknown on the national stage until just a few months ago. Now she is among the contenders to be Joe Biden's pick for his vice presidential running mate.

Senate Republicans are rejecting a White House-backed plan to tuck money for the design and construction of a new FBI headquarters into the latest coronavirus relief bill despite including the funding in a GOP proposal released on Monday.

Republicans rapidly criticized the provision less than a day after the legislation was unveiled. Democrats have accused President Trump of including the money to prevent the existing FBI building, which is across from the Trump Hotel in Washington, D.C., from being sold and redeveloped into a hotel that might compete with the Trump property.

Updated at 12:30 p.m. ET

Ancient state unemployment systems that struggled to handle the first round of COVID-19 relief payments could take months or more to adopt a White House proposal for modifying the benefits, according to memos obtained by NPR.

Such a lag could mean that the roughly 30 million people currently collecting pandemic-related unemployment benefits would see their income drop from a weekly average of $900 to an average of $300 per week.

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