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 MnuchinDemocrats justified in filibustering GOP, says Schumer Yellen provides signature for paper currency Biden's name will not appear on stimulus checks, White House says 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 GrassleyGrassley asks Blinken to provide potential conflicts involving John Kerry Overnight Defense: Gillibrand makes new push for military sexual assault reform | US troops begin leaving Afghanistan | Biden budget delay pushes back annual defense policy bill Gillibrand makes new push for military sexual assault reform 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 BradyRepublicans attack Biden agenda after disappointing jobs report Bad jobs report amplifies GOP cries to end 0 benefits boost Battle lines drawn over Biden's support for vaccine waivers 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 McConnellAssaults on Roe v Wade increasing Trump spokesman says defeating Cheney a top priority Biden to meet with GOP senators amid infrastructure push MORE (R-Ky.) warned that he could lose up to 20 of his 53 GOP senators with that measure.


But Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntBiden to meet with GOP senators amid infrastructure push Republicans embrace Trump in effort to reclaim Senate GOP attorneys general group in turmoil after Jan. 6 Trump rally 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 CornynTim Scott sparks buzz in crowded field of White House hopefuls Cornyn is most prolific tweeter in Congress so far in 2021 Schumer 'exploring' passing immigration unilaterally if talks unravel MORE (R-Texas).

Sen. Kevin CramerKevin John CramerSenate passes bipartisan B water infrastructure bill Biden administration faces big decision on whether to wade into Dakota Access fight OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Supreme Court declines to hear challenge to Obama marine monument designation | Interior reverses course on tribal ownership of portion of Missouri river | White House climate adviser meets with oil and gas companies 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 ShelbyRepublicans embrace Trump in effort to reclaim Senate Top Senate Democrat announces return of earmarks Senate GOP keeps symbolic earmark ban 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 PaulTim Scott sparks buzz in crowded field of White House hopefuls Sherrod Brown calls Rand Paul 'kind of a lunatic' for not wearing mask Overnight Health Care: WHO-backed Covax gets a boost from Moderna 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 SchumerBiden to meet with GOP senators amid infrastructure push The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Emergent BioSolutions - Upbeat jobs data, relaxed COVID-19 restrictions offer rosier US picture How to fast-track climate action? EPA cutting super pollutant HFCs MORE (D-N.Y.) have said they would be willing to go down to $2.2 trillion.

Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneCheney fight stokes cries of GOP double standard for women Trump muddles Republican messaging on Afghanistan The Memo: Trump's critics face wrath of GOP base 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."