Biden meeting with GOP senators Monday on coronavirus relief

A group of GOP senators will meet with President Biden on Monday after pitching their own coronavirus relief framework. 

“We appreciate the President’s quick response to our letter, and we are pleased to accept his invitation to the White House tomorrow afternoon to discuss the path forward for the sixth bipartisan Covid-19 relief package,” the GOP senators said in a joint statement.

The group includes GOP Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Bill Cassidy (La.), Mitt Romney (Utah), Rob Portman (Ohio), Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.), Todd Young (Ind.), Jerry Moran (Kan.), Mike Rounds (S.D.) and Thom Tillis (N.C.).

White House press secretary Jen Psaki disclosed on Sunday night that Biden had spoken to Collins, whom he previously served with in the Senate and who has taken the lead in trying to jump-start bipartisan negotiations on the next round of coronavirus relief, and invited her and the other nine GOP senators to the White House. 

The Republican senators outlined their own coronavirus framework earlier Sunday that Cassidy put around $600 billion — less than a third of the roughly $1.9 trillion plan offered by Biden. 

The GOP proposal would include $1,000 checks, while Democrats are pushing for $1,400 checks. It also includes more money for vaccines, extends unemployment benefits and includes things like nutrition assistance, small business aid and money for schools and child care. 

The GOP letter comes as Democrats appear ready to move this week to set the stage for passing an eventual coronavirus relief bill through reconciliation, a budget process that will let them avoid a 60-vote legislative filibuster in the Senate. 

The House will vote on the budget resolution this week that will include instructions for crafting the coronavirus bill, with the Senate hoping to follow quickly. Democrats are hoping to be able to pass the coronavirus relief bill by mid-March, when unemployment benefits are set to expire. 

But Republicans have shown no signs of supporting a $1.9 trillion bill after Congress passed an additional $900 billion in coronavirus relief late last year — the fifth package that Congress has passed. 

Instead, the GOP senators, in their letter, urged Biden to work with them on a proposal they predicted could get through Congress if he supports it.  

“The proposal we have outlined is mindful of these past efforts, while also acknowledging the priorities that need additional support right now,” the GOP senators wrote.

“With your support, we believe Congress can once again craft a relief package that will provide meaningful, effective assistance to the American people and set us on a path to recovery,” they added. 

Democrats have slim margins in both chambers, and progressives, who view $1.9 trillion as the minimum Congress should be spending, would likely balk at a substantially lower price tag. 

In addition to speaking to Collins, Psaki said that Biden spoke with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Sunday. 

“He is grateful that Congress is prepared to begin action on the American Rescue Plan in just his second full week in office,” she said.

Psaki also gave no indication that Biden was considering abandoning his $1.9 trillion proposal for a smaller plan.

“The American Rescue Plan … is badly needed. As leading economists have said, the danger now is not in doing too much: it is in doing too little,” she added.

The White House invite also comes as Schumer, speaking to reporters in New York, reiterated his warning that Democrats were willing to move forward without Republicans if they wouldn’t support a “bold” plan. 

“We intend to move forward. We hope that we can move forward with a bipartisan way with our Republican colleagues cooperating. But we need big, bold action and if we can’t move forward with them, we’ll have to move forward on our own. Getting the job done in a big bold way is the number one priority,” he added.

Schumer also appeared cool to the GOP proposal, telling the New York Daily News that Republicans “should negotiate.” 

“If the reports are true, it doesn’t have any state and local money in it. Look at that, just as one thing,” Schumer said.

Tags Biden coronavirus relief plan Bill Cassidy Charles Schumer Jen Psaki Jerry Moran Lisa Murkowski Mike Rounds Mitt Romney Nancy Pelosi Rob Portman Shelley Moore Capito Susan Collins Thom Tillis Todd Young
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