GOP cool to White House's $1.6T coronavirus price tag

The latest White House coronavirus relief offer, with a $1.6 trillion price tag, received a cool reception Thursday from congressional Republicans.

The new offer from Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven MnuchinThe Hill's Morning Report - Biden argues for legislative patience, urgent action amid crisis On The Money: Senate confirms Yellen as first female Treasury secretary | Biden says he's open to tighter income limits for stimulus checks | Administration will look to expedite getting Tubman on bill Senate confirms Yellen as first female Treasury secretary MORE, which exceeds the original $1.1 trillion Senate GOP package and the $1.5 trillion the White House signaled it could support last month, was made as part of renewed talks this week with Democratic leaders.

But Republicans, including influential chairmen and members of leadership, are warning they can't support it, creating another potential obstacle for negotiators trying to strike a deal on emergency COVID-19 aid after nearly two months of stalemate.


Asked about the prospect of supporting a $1.6 trillion measure, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleySenate sworn in as jurors for Trump impeachment trial GOP digs in on preserving Trump tax cuts On The Money: Treasury announces efforts to help people get stimulus payments | Senate panel unanimously advances Yellen nomination for Treasury | Judge sets ground rules for release of Trump taxes MORE (R-Iowa) was direct: "No."

"I think we've made it very clear that there's so much money ... that isn't even out of Washington yet," Grassley said. "We're more in the neighborhood of something below $1 trillion."

Rep. Kevin BradyKevin Patrick BradyGOP digs in on preserving Trump tax cuts Capitol Police tribute turns political K Street navigates virtual inauguration week MORE of Texas, the top Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee, also appeared unsure he could back a bill with that dollar amount by criticizing the inclusion of a $400 per week federal unemployment benefit.

"How much wasteful spending will we have to swallow to do this?" he said during an interview with Fox Business Network on Thursday.

The pushback comes as Republicans have struggled to unite behind a strategy on the coronavirus relief talks. Senate Republicans initially unveiled a $1.1 trillion package in late July but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellHouse Democrat touts resolution to expel Marjorie Taylor Greene from Congress Bringing America back from the brink Senate GOP slow walking Biden's pick to lead DHS MORE (R-Ky.) warned that he could lose up to 20 of his 53 GOP senators with that measure.


But Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntTrump censure faces tough odds in Senate Senate GOP boxes itself in on impeachment Just five GOP senators vote Trump impeachment trial is constitutional MORE (Mo.), a member of GOP leadership, predicted Thursday that if there were going to be a deal it would be closer to $2 trillion than $1 trillion.

"We need a bill that half of our members can vote for. It kind of depends on how you structure it," Blunt said, while suggesting that using unspent money or tying spending to future economic activity could be a way to keep the price tag lower.

Others said they want to see the details for a $1.6 trillion package, but acknowledged that was more than they would want to spend.

"It depends on what's in it. That's more than I would want to spend, but I do think it's important to get something done," said Sen. John CornynJohn CornynTrump censure faces tough odds in Senate Senate GOP slow walking Biden's pick to lead DHS Why John Roberts's absence from Senate trial isn't a surprise MORE (R-Texas).

Sen. Kevin CramerKevin John CramerTrump censure faces tough odds in Senate White House lays groundwork for international approach on climate change Senate GOP boxes itself in on impeachment MORE (R-N.D.), said he would want to see the details, but acknowledged that a higher price tag would be "harder" for Republicans.


"The higher the price, the fewer Republicans and that's true ... but the substance also matters," Cramer said.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyMcConnell about to school Trump on political power for the last time Overnight Defense: Trump impeached for second time | National Guard at Capitol now armed, swelling to 20K troops for inauguration | Alabama chosen for Space Command home Space Command to be located in Alabama MORE (R-Ala.) said he "would support a rational compromise," but declined to say if he thought $1.6 trillion met that definition and instead wanted to see the specifics.

A GOP bill in August that cost roughly $500 billion garnered support from every Senate Republican except Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulTrump censure faces tough odds in Senate Senate GOP slow walking Biden's pick to lead DHS The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - White House targets climate change in today's executive orders MORE (Ky.). The measure was blocked by Senate Democrats.

To get a deal with congressional Democrats, Republicans would have to increase their price tag, not lower it. House Democrats passed a $3.4 trillion bill in May, and Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerFormer DHS heads blast Republicans for stalling Binden nominee Mayorkas How will an impeachment trial unite Americans? Humanist Report host criticizes 'conservative Democrats:' They 'hold more power' than progressives MORE (D-N.Y.) have said they would be willing to go down to $2.2 trillion.

Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneTrump censure faces tough odds in Senate Republicans now 'shocked, shocked' that there's a deficit Progressive groups warn Congress against Section 230 changes MORE (S.D.), the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, appeared skeptical that GOP senators would be willing to put up the 13 votes to pass a coronavirus relief deal costing around $1.6 trillion.

"As the price goes up, the Republican vote total goes down. ... If you start pushing beyond even that level where Senator McConnell started with the HEALS Act, I think it gets much harder to get Republican votes," Thune said, referring to the $1.1 trillion package.

"Could you pass it? Maybe? But you’re going to pass it with 47 democrats and 13republicans and that’s – depending on what that number is, I don’t know where the 13 republicans would come from," Thune added.

McConnell has appeared deeply skeptical that the renewed talks between Pelosi and Mnuchin will lead to a deal.

"I think Secretary Mnuchin and the Speaker continue to speak, but we're very, very far apart," he told reporters during a press conference Wednesday.

Asked on Thursday about the White House-Pelosi talks, McConnell added: "I’m wishing them well."