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'I'm wishing them well': McConnell jeers coronavirus negotiation between Pelosi and Mnuchin from the sidelines

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin have once again renewed negotiations for a final coronavirus relief package just weeks before the 2020 US elections, but Republicans in Congress aren't buying the hype on the long-elusive deal.

"Well," Mitch McConnell told reporters on Capitol Hill on Thursday, "I'm wishing them well."

The Senate majority leader has sidelined himself for months from discussions between House Democrats and the White House on a bill to re-up a federal unemployment programme, cut another round of stimulus checks for most American taxpayers and families, and shovel even more money over to states, local governments, and health care centres that will be on the frontlines taking in Covid-19 patients and deploying a vaccine to the masses.

That's partly because Senate Republicans have been all over the map on what kind of bill – and what price tag – they could support, with conservative firebrands Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky saying they'd try to sink any bill that adds trillions of dollars to the ever-ballooning federal debt.

Other GOP senators, including several who are up for re-election in key swing states such as Iowa, Arizona, and North Carolina, are more eager to pass a sweeping package they can present to voters on the campaign trail in the crucial remaining weeks before Election Day on 3 November.

Ms Pelosi and Mr Mnuchin are ploughing ahead with negotiations, despite the Senate GOP's absence and the fact they have not been able to strike any Covid-19 relief deal since May.

The speaker remains "optimistic" about reaching an agreement with the administration, she told reporters at a press conference on Thursday. But the ideological rift on how much money the federal government can afford to spend – and where to spend those dollars – is still immense.

"We not only have a dollars debate," she said, "we have a values debate."

Republicans have been pushing for months to include provisions that would shield schools, hospitals, and businesses from liability lawsuits stemming from exposing patrons and employees to Covid-19.

Democrats have panned that proposal for potentially putting American workers in the "unfair" position of having to choose between going to work and exposing themselves to Covid-19 or skipping work to better ensure their health.

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