Biden invites GOP senators to White House for relief talks

President Biden on Sunday invited a group of Republican senators to meet with him at the White House early this week after they proposed a more targeted economic relief package, but the administration gave no indication it is ready to budge from its original $1.9 trillion proposal.

“As has been widely reported, the President received a letter today from 10 Republican Senators asking to meet with him to discuss their ideas about the actions needed to address these crises,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement. “In response, the President spoke to Senator Collins, and invited her and other signers of the letter to come to the White House early this week for a full exchange of views.”

Ten Senate Republicans, led by Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), proposed their own framework earlier Sunday for a COVID-19 relief package. Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), another senator involved in the effort, said on “Fox News Sunday” that the outline of the GOP package would total $600 billion and include direct payments of $1,000.

Biden has already proposed a $1.9 trillion package that includes $1,400 in direct payments, funding for schools and state and local governments and money to ramp up vaccine distribution.

But Psaki’s statement underscored the White House’s position that Biden’s original proposal was of necessary size and scope, making it unclear whether the two sides will find a path forward.

“With the virus posing a grave threat to the country, and economic conditions grim for so many, the need for action is urgent, and the scale of what must be done is large,” Psaki said. “As leading economists have said, the danger now is not in doing too much: it is in doing too little. Americans of both parties are looking to their leaders to meet the moment.”

Biden and other officials have done outreach to Republicans in an attempt to garner bipartisan support for his relief proposal. But GOP senators have largely balked at the price tag and pointed to the relief package Congress passed in December to argue it’s not yet necessary to approve another large bill.

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) signaled last week that Democrats were willing to go it alone on the coronavirus relief package, potentially starting the process as soon as next week.

White House aides have been adamant that they do not support breaking up the $1.9 trillion package and passing it piece by piece to garner Republican support.

They have also indicated the administration is open to passing the package via the budget reconciliation process, which would allow the bill to pass with a simple majority in each chamber. Passing the legislation without reconciliation would require support from at least 10 Senate Republicans.

“I support passing COVID relief with support from Republicans if we can get it, but the COVID relief has to pass. There’s no ifs, ands or buts,” Biden said Friday when asked if he supports using reconciliation to pass the bill. 

Tags Bill Cassidy Chuck Schumer coronavirus relief economic relief package Jen Psaki Susan Collins

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