Collins: Biden’s $1.9T coronavirus package won’t get any Senate GOP votes
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) says that President Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package likely won’t get any Republican votes on the Senate floor.
And she pointed to Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and White House chief of staff Ron Klain as a major reason why bipartisan talks on the relief bill fell apart.
Collins said Tuesday that Biden’s senior advisers have refused to come down from their $1.9 trillion proposal, which GOP moderates say is far too expensive given their preference for what they call “targeted” relief.
As a result, Biden’s relief proposal, which is expected to pass the House this week and come to the Senate floor before March 14, will likely wind up passing by a straight party-line vote.
Schumer is circumventing a Republican filibuster by using special budgetary rules to pass the relief bill with a simple majority. Vice President Harris would break the expected tie in the 50-50 Senate.
“The administration has not indicated a willingness to come down from its $1.9 trillion figure and that’s a major obstacle,” Collins told reporters.
“We have indicated a willingness to come up from our $618 billion, but unfortunately the White House seems wedded to a figure that really can’t be justified given the hundreds of billions of dollars that are still in the pipeline from the December bill,” she added.
Collins said she and her centrist GOP colleagues are looking at making changes to Biden’s proposal when it comes to the Senate floor but she predicted there wouldn’t be any Republican support for the package in its current form.
“What we’re looking at now is whether there are changes that we could make. But I would be surprised if there was support in the Republican caucus if the bill comes out at $1.9 trillion even if we’re able to make some beneficial changes,” she said.
Collins is the leader of a group of 10 Republican moderates who met with Biden at the White House early this month. At the meeting, they proposed a $618 billion counteroffer that capped direct payments to individuals at $1,000 per person instead of the $1,400 per person for adults and children proposed by the Biden administration.
The Senate GOP moderates also omitted $350 billion in fiscal relief for state and local governments that Biden made a centerpiece of his plan.
Collins praised Biden for “doing a good job at outreach” to Republicans in Congress but lamented what she called efforts by Schumer and White House staff to curtail Biden’s bipartisan impulses.
“What appear to be productive talks seem to be countermanded by the Democratic leader in the Senate,” she said.
“And a perfect example of that is when we had our two our discussion at the White House with the 10 Republicans to present our plan, discuss it with the president. He was very attentive, gracious into the details there was a great discussion,” she said of the Feb. 1 meeting with Biden.
But Collins said Klain, who was standing at the back of the room during the meeting, appeared to be hovering in the room to quash the possibility of the president cutting down the size of his proposal to pick up Republican support.
“Ron was shaking his head in the back of the room the whole time, which is not exactly an encouraging sign,” she said.
Collins said she has had conversations with senior White House officials about the size and scope of the COVID-19 relief package since meeting with Biden but those talks have failed to make any progress.
“I’ve had conversations with people at the White House, and other members of the group have as well. But I think the sticking point is that the White House staff seems very wedded to the $1.9 trillion thing,” she said.
Collins said she was specifically concerned about $50 billion in Biden’s proposal for “unidentified” priorities.
“The first package they put out the explanation of in the $160 billion, which we all believe is the right number for COVID vaccine, manufacturer distribution for extra tests, etc. But there was $50 billion in there, that just said unidentified. I mean, that is not acceptable,” she said.
“We’re not going to give a blank check on ‘unidentified.’ I mean, that’s extraordinary,” she added.
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