White House signals it does not expect breakthrough on COVID-19 relief at meeting with GOP

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White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday that President Biden would not “make or accept an offer” during a meeting with Republican senators on coronavirus relief later in the day and that he remains committed to a large package.

“It’s an exchange of ideas, an opportunity to do that,” Psaki said of the meeting. “What this meeting is not is a forum for the president to make or accept an offer.”

Psaki reiterated that Biden’s view is that the risk of his $1.9 trillion American Rescue Package proposed last month is not that it is too big but “that it is too small,” underscoring his desire to pass a robust bill that provides food assistance, funds vaccine distribution and helps schools reopen.

“His view is that the size of the package needs to be commensurate with the crises we are facing,” Psaki said.

Biden and Vice President Harris are slated to meet with 10 Republican senators in the Oval Office on Monday evening. The senators have unveiled a $618 billion coronavirus relief proposal, which is about one-third the size of the package proposed by Biden.

The White House says that Biden has been engaging with members of both parties in Congress regarding the next relief package, including keeping in close contact with Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

Monday’s meeting will represent his first face-to-face COVID-19 relief discussions with lawmakers since taking office.

“it is important he hears this group out on their concerns, on their ideas. He is always open to making this package stronger,” Psaki told reporters.

Biden has sought bipartisan support for the next relief package, but Republicans seem unlikely to support legislation that is as costly as the proposal he has put forth. Democrats, meanwhile, are poised to begin the process of using budget reconciliation to pass the package, which would allow them to pass it with a simple majority of 51 votes in the Senate instead of needing Republican votes.

“I support passing COVID relief with support from Republicans if we can get it. But the COVID relief has to pass. No ifs ands or buts,” Biden told reporters on Friday, signaling he supports Democrats using reconciliation.

Psaki on Monday repeatedly described an “urgent” need to act on the relief package but would not specify when Biden would abandon his hope of working with Republicans on a compromise. She also declined to outline what the White House views as “red lines” in negotiations when asked about the lack of aid for state and local governments included in the package proposed by the 10 GOP senators.

Tags American Rescue Package Chuck Schumer Coronavirus COVID-19 relief Jen Psaki Nancy Pelosi pandemic aid

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