GOP senators unveil $618 billion coronavirus proposal ahead of Biden meeting
A group of 10 GOP senators unveiled an estimated $618 billion coronavirus proposal on Monday ahead of a meeting with President Biden to discuss relief legislation.
“Mr. President, we recognize your calls for unity and want to work in good faith with your Administration to meet the health, economic, and societal challenges of the COVID crisis,” the senators said in a joint statement.
The group will meet with Biden and Vice President Harris at 5 p.m., according to the White House’s schedule.
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.).
The Republican proposal totals $618 billion, according to details released by Collins’s office on Monday morning. That is roughly a third of the $1.9 trillion plan proposed by Biden and backed by congressional Democrats.
The proposal includes $160 billion in pandemic response funding including protective equipment and more money for vaccine distribution. It also extends the $300 per week federal unemployment benefit through June 30.
The bill includes a $1,000 direct payment, compared to the $1,400 direct payment in Biden’s plans, with $500 for adult dependents and children. The proposal also lowers the income cap for qualifying for the direct assistance.
Under previous coronavirus bills, individuals who make up to $75,000 would receive the check, with the amount of the payment phasing out after that. But under the GOP proposal individuals who make up to $40,000 would get a $1,000 check, with the amount of the check phasing out altogether at $50,000.
It also includes $20 billion in additional funding for schools, $20 billion in child care funding, an additional $50 billion in small business aid, $12 billion for nutrition assistance and $4 billion for behavioral health resources.
“We look forward to discussing our proposal in detail with you this afternoon at the White House,” the GOP senators added.
The meeting comes a day after Republican senators said in a letter to Biden that they had drafted a proposal and requested a meeting. Biden subsequently called Collins, whom he previously served with in the Senate and who has been taking the lead on bipartisan talks, to invite the group to the White House.
Democrats are nearing a decision point on whether they will move forward with their $1.9 trillion plan, which will require passing it without GOP votes, or negotiate a substantially smaller bill if Senate Republicans guarantee they will provide the 10 votes needed to get over the 60-vote legislative filibuster.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki indicated on Monday that Biden would not be cutting a deal with Republicans during the meeting.
“What this meeting is not is a forum for the president to make or accept an offer,” Psaki said.
She added that Biden believes the final package “needs to be closer to what he proposed” and that the risk was not a relief package that was too big but “the risk is that it is too small.”
“That remains his view and it’s one he’ll certainly express today,” Psaki said.
In addition to talking to Collins, Biden spoke with Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Sunday.
The House is scheduled to vote on a budget resolution this week that will include reconciliation instructions that will allow Congress to draft and ultimately pass a coronavirus bill with only a simple majority in the House and Senate.
Going it alone will test Democratic unity just weeks into Biden’s administration. Democrats have a slim majority in the House and the 50-member entire Senate Democratic caucus would need to support both the budget resolution and the subsequent coronavirus legislation in order to pass it without GOP support.
Democrats are split over whether or not including a $15 minimum wage increase complies with arcane Senate rules that govern what can, and cannot, pass through reconciliation. A stand-alone bill from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) only has the support of an additional 37 senators.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) refused to tell reporters late last week if he would vote for the budget resolution if it’s used to set up a Democratic-only coronavirus bill.
“We’re gonna try to make Joe Biden successful. I don’t understand why y’all don’t understand what I’m saying,” he said amid several questions about his vote.
But Schumer, speaking to reporters in New York on Sunday, vowed to move forward on a bigger plan if Democrats couldn’t get GOP support.
“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 said.
Updated at 1:22 p.m.