Bipartisan Senate gang to talk with Biden aide on coronavirus relief

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A bipartisan group of 16 senators is expected to speak this weekend with a White House aide about coronavirus relief.

The phone call with National Economic Council Director Brian Deese, confirmed by a source familiar with the plan, is expected to be used to discuss President Biden’s roughly $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief proposal.

Spokespeople for the White House didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Senate group includes many of the same members as last year’s “908” coalition, who created a framework credited by leadership as breaking a months-long stalemate on a fifth round of coronavirus help.

The GOP senators in the group are Susan Collins (Maine), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Mitt Romney (Utah), Rob Portman (Ohio), Bill Cassidy (La.), Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.), Jerry Moran (Kan.) and Todd Young (Ind.).

The Democrats are Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Mark Warner (Va.), Maggie Hassan (N.H.), Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.), Mark Kelly (Ariz.), John Hickenlooper (Colo.), Dick Durbin (Ill.) and Independent Sen. Angus King (Maine), who caucuses with Democrats.

The bipartisan meeting to discuss the specifics of Biden’s proposal comes as it’s already hitting fierce GOP pushback.

Sen. Roy Blunt (Mo.), a member of GOP leadership, called it a “non-starter,” though he noted that pieces of Biden’s offer could gain bipartisan support.

Even GOP members of the group indicated that they weren’t yet supportive of a new proposal but that they wanted to get details from the Biden White House on how the previous coronavirus funds are being dispersed.

“You know, there would be a lot of places where we agree. I think there’d be a lot of places where we disagree. We just passed a program with over $900 billion in it. I’m not looking for a new program in the immediate future,” Romney told reporters this week.

Part of Biden’s plan would provide a $1,400 direct payment for individuals who make up to $75,000, after bipartisan calls to increase the $600 payment included in last year’s bill to $2,000. It would also provide payments for adult dependents, instead of just minors.

Durbin said the group isn’t trying to come up with its own proposal, but that they’ve discussed the individual relief proposals.

“There’s been a concern about the cash payment and whether or not there ought to be a different criteria for passing it out and distributing it. That has been discussed at length and I think it’s one of the major elements,” Durbin said.

Tags Angus King Bill Cassidy Brian Deese Dick Durbin Jeanne Shaheen Jerry Moran Joe Manchin John Hickenlooper Lisa Murkowski Maggie Hassan Mark Kelly Mark Warner Mitt Romney Rob Portman Roy Blunt Shelley Moore Capito Susan Collins Todd Young

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