Moderate GOP senators and Biden clash at start of infrastructure debate

A group of 10 Republican senators who met with President Biden for his first official Oval Office visit on Feb. 1 said Wednesday that the Biden administration “roundly dismissed our effort” to reach a bipartisan compromise on a COVID-19 relief package. 

The 10 lawmakers issued a joint statement pushing back on Biden’s criticism earlier in the day that the group of mostly moderate Republicans “didn’t move an inch” from their proposal to spend $618 billion on the pandemic relief package Congress passed last month.

Democrats ultimately passed the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, which was largely based on Biden’s original proposal, without a single Republican vote in the Senate or House.

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) used the budget reconciliation process to pass the bill through the Senate with a simple majority vote.

“The administration roundly dismissed our effort as wholly inadequate in order to justify its go-it-alone strategy,” the senators said in their statement.

“Fewer than 24 hours after our meeting in the Oval Office, the Senate Democratic Leader began the process for triggering reconciliation which precluded Republican participation allowed the package to pass without a single Republican vote,” they said.

The group of Republican senators, led by Susan Collins (Maine), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Mitt Romney (Utah), Rob Portman (Ohio) and Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.) issued the statement to rebut Biden’s claim that they weren’t willing to compromise.

“A Republican group came to see me, and they started off at $600 billion, and that was it,” Biden told reporters Wednesday when asked if he would fail to fulfill his promise of bringing bipartisanship to Washington if Republicans again vote in unison against his $2.25 trillion infrastructure plan.

The president said he was prepared to craft a bipartisan pandemic relief package but Republican lawmakers refused to give any ground.

“I would’ve been prepared to compromise, but they didn’t. They didn’t move an inch. Not an inch,” he said.

The GOP senators noted Wednesday that their $618 billion proposal “included the core COVID relief elements of the Biden administration’s plan,” such as providing $160 billion to support vaccines and testing.

They also pointed out that they offered to increase the size of the package to $650 billion to increase the size of proposed stimulus checks.

The clash between Biden and GOP senators bodes poorly for the prospect of his Build Back Better infrastructure plan picking up much bipartisan support.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has attacked the first tranche of Biden’s infrastructure agenda as a “Trojan horse” for tax increases and a litany of liberal priorities, predicting it won’t pick up Republican support in the Senate. 

Tags Charles Schumer Joe Biden Lisa Murkowski Mitch McConnell Mitt Romney Rob Portman Shelley Moore Capito Susan Collins
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