Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has been careful to maintain his distance from the…

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellNegotiators remain far apart on coronavirus deal as deadline loomsStates begin removing Capitol’s Confederate statues on their ownSkepticism grows over Friday deadline for coronavirus dealMORE (R-Ky.) has been careful to maintain his distance from the negotiations between White House officials and Democratic leaders on coronavirus relief legislation.
McConnells decision not to participate directly in talks between Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinNegotiators remain far apart on coronavirus deal as deadline loomsOn The Money: White House warns there’s likely no deal with no agreement by Friday | More generous unemployment benefits lead to better jobs: study | 167K workers added to private payrolls in JulySkepticism grows over Friday deadline for coronavirus dealMORE, White House chief of staff Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsNegotiators remain far apart on coronavirus deal as deadline loomsTrump dismisses legal questions on GOP nomination speech at White HouseOvernight Defense: Esper says ‘most believe’ Beirut explosion was accident, contradicting Trump | Trump later says ‘nobody knows yet’ what happened in Lebanon | 61-year-old reservist ID’d as fourth military COVID-19 deathMORE and Democratic leaders has struck some colleagues as odd.
Senate Republicans say McConnell has proceeded cautiously because any deal that emerges is likely to divide the Senate GOP conference. They note the GOP leader has made it a practice in recent years to avoid taking up issues that divide Republicans if possible.
You got 20 Republicans who are not on board, said a Republican senator who requested anonymity to discuss why the GOP leader is keeping his distance from the talks.
You have a lot of conservative folks asking, What are we doing here? Is this really helpful? Were saddling the next generation and the next generation with huge debt, the lawmaker added.
Considering where members are right now, its a good thing for him to step back and let the members come to him. I dont think there would be anything to be gained if he were to go out on a limb and endorse this, this or this, the source added. When youre riding at the point of the posse, you better check over your shoulder to see if the posse is still there. Otherwise, why take the first arrow?
McConnells goal has been to diffuse responsibility for getting a deal to the broader Senate Republican Conference, which has the dual benefit of letting GOP colleagues feel more involved while insulating himself from a potential backlash if the resulting bill sparks the anger of fiscal hawks.  
Senate Small Business Committee Chairman Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioHillicon Valley: Facebook removes Trump post | TikTok gets competitor | Lawmakers raise grid safety concernsSkepticism grows over Friday deadline for coronavirus dealACLU targets Democrats, Republicans with mobile coronavirus billboardsMORE (R-Fla.) said McConnell has made it clear that he doesnt want the relief bill to be dictated from the top.
Hes also frankly said that he wants it to be negotiated by members, like the last [relief bill] was. He doesnt want it to be a top-down bill. What he wants to do is sort of agree on areas to work on and then empower the members to do different task forces, the chairmen and ranking members to meet and work out the details, Rubio said.
McConnells decision to stay out of the room has made it more necessary for Mnuchin and Meadows to attend Senate Republican Conference lunches during the week to provide periodic updates and listen to senators concerns about the trajectory of the talks. That has allowed senior White House officials to hear about the deficit concerns held by multiple GOP senators.
Democrats maintain that McConnell is worried about a rebellion within his own conference.
Ive asked Republicans, how could he possibly explain this? Getting up on the floor every day criticizing Democrats for their ideas, not putting a bill forward, not even going to the negotiation. Ive never seen anything like this. Never, said Senate Minority Whip Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinDemocrats seek to exploit Trump-GOP tensions in COVID-19 talksThe Hill’s Campaign Report: Who will Biden pick to be his running mate?Don’t count out Duckworth in Biden VP raceMORE (D-Ill.).
His caucus is hopelessly fractured. He realizes anything he supports will be opposed by half of his caucus and hes afraid of the consequences, he added.
Election prognosticators say the battle for control of the Senate is a toss-up as Republicans, who hold 53 seats, must defend 23 seats in November while Democrats have only 12 up for reelection. 
If moderates such as Sens. Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerGroup of GOP senators back more money for airlines to pay workersOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump signs major conservation bill into law | Senate votes to confirm Energy’s No. 2 official | Trump Jr. expresses opposition to Pebble Mine projectTrump signs major conservation bill into lawMORE (R-Colo.), Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsAnalysis finds record high number of woman versus woman congressional racesGroup of GOP senators back more money for airlines to pay workersRepublicans uncomfortably playing defenseMORE (R-Maine), Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstAnalysis finds record high number of woman versus woman congressional racesThe Hill’s Campaign Report: COVID-19 puts conventions in flux Sabato’s Crystal Ball shifts Iowa Senate race to ‘toss-up,’ Georgia toward GOPMORE (R-Iowa) and Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyGroup of GOP senators back more money for airlines to pay workersThe Hill’s Campaign Report: COVID-19 puts conventions in flux ACLU targets Democrats, Republicans with mobile coronavirus billboardsMORE (R-Ariz.) are voted out of office, conservatives who are opposed to another big spending bill will make up a greater percentage of the GOP conference.
Two other more centrist members Sens. Pat RobertsCharles (Pat) Patrick RobertsThe Hill’s Campaign Report: COVID-19 puts conventions in flux The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by the Air Line Pilots Association – Virus bill unlikely to pass this weekEstablishment-backed Marshall defeats Kobach in Kansas GOP Senate primaryMORE (R-Kan.) and Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderThe Hill’s Campaign Report: COVID-19 puts conventions in flux Negotiators hit gas on coronavirus talks as frustration mountsChamber of Commerce endorses Ernst for reelectionMORE (R-Tenn.) are retiring at years end. 
McConnells own reelection appears probable after a new Morning Consult poll this week showed him with a commanding 17-point lead over Democratic challenger Amy McGrath.
McConnell says he plans to remain as Senate Republican leader even if the GOP loses control of the upper chamber. It is highly unlikely McConnell would be challenged for the top GOP post next year. 
Scott Jennings, a Kentucky-based GOP strategist who has advised McConnells past campaigns, said the GOP leader recognizes that him being in the room during talks with Democratic leaders wouldnt necessarily yield a deal any sooner.
Kentuckys experienced one of the highest unemployment crises in the country over [COVID-19]. Weve been hit economically very hard. What his constituents want is their elected officials to engage on this and do what they can do, he said.
Jennings said McConnell plays these things the way he thinks he needs to play them for that specific moment and to get a result.
Ive heard him say many times lately that hes not looking for grandstanding, hes looking for outcomes. And so if he needs to be in a room, hell be in the room. If he doesnt need to be in the room and thinks thats more helpful to getting an outcome, thats what he does, he added. 
Colleagues think McConnell wants to get a deal done, even though its certain there will be parts of the bill he doesnt like. 
His job as majority leader is to shepherd legislation and get results, Rubio said. 
McConnell told reporters Tuesday that he is willing to accept a deal between the White House and Democratic leaders. 
I am prepared to support [it], even if I have some problems with certain parts of it, he said.   
As majority leader, McConnell has been careful to avoid bringing issues to the floor that badly divide his conference. Its a major reason why he delayed bringing bipartisan criminal justice reform legislation to the floor until the lame-duck session in 2018, by which time President TrumpDonald John TrumpLincoln Project ad dubs Jared Kushner the ‘Secretary of Failure’ Pence: Chief Justice Roberts ‘has been a disappointment to conservatives’Twitter bans Trump campaign until it deletes tweet with COVID-19 misinformation MORE was solidly behind a proposal that ultimately passed and was signed into law. 
McConnell has played a central role in recent years in helping to broker deals when Democrats and Republicans were deadlocked over major policy problems that threatened to have serious implications for the nations economy. He cut a deal with then-Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenGOP chairmen hit back at accusation they are spreading disinformation with Biden probeTrump outraises Biden in July, surpasses billion for the cycleDuckworth: Republican coronavirus package would ‘gut’ Americans With Disabilities ActMORE at the end of 2012 to extend many of the George W. Bush-era tax cuts and get past the so-called fiscal cliff that had stymied bipartisan negotiators for months. McConnell reached out to Biden when it became clear that then-Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidKamala Harris to young Black women at conference: ‘I want you to be ambitious’Obama calls filibuster ‘Jim Crow relic,’ backs new Voting Rights Act billMcConnell warns Democrats not to change filibuster ruleMORE (D-Nev.) was prepared to let the tax breaks lapse.
In the summer of 2011, McConnell helped craft a compromise to raise the nations debt limit by finding a mechanism to allow Congress to raise borrowing authority passively. The compromise ended a weeks-long stalemate and helped the nation avert a default. 
This year, however, he has instead opted to receive regular briefings from Mnuchin and Meadows. 
Hes made it very clear to all of us, hes at the table without being at the table, said Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyGOP chairmen hit back at accusation they are spreading disinformation with Biden probeOn The Money: Unemployment debate sparks GOP divisions | Pandemic reveals flaws of unemployment insurance programs | Survey finds nearly one-third of rehired workers laid off again Unemployment debate sparks GOP divisionsMORE (R-Iowa).