Biden aides signal president is open to talks on COVID-19 relief

Aides to President Biden signaled on Sunday that the administration is open to meeting with Republicans who suggested their own framework for COVID-19-related economic relief even as some Democrats have called for the administration's plan to be pushed through Congress without needing GOP votes.

During interviews on the Sunday political talk shows, top Biden advisers, including National Economic Council Director Brian DeeseBrian DeeseJust 6.5 percent of rental aid has reached tenants, landlords: Treasury Trouble: IRS funding snags bipartisan infrastructure deal On The Money: Inflation spike puts Biden on defensive | Senate Democrats hit spending speed bumps | Larry Summers huddles with WH team MOREsaid that the president was considering a letter from 10 Senate Republicans released Sunday that called for a meeting with the president to address priorities for a possible deal.

“We’ve received the letter, and will be reviewing it over the course of the day,” Deese said of the letter headed by Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsTop Democrat: 'A lot of spin' coming from White House on infrastructure Bill would honor Ginsburg, O'Connor with statues at Capitol The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - US gymnast wins all-around gold as Simone Biles cheers from the stands MORE (R-Maine). Deese added, however,that Biden was "uncompromising" in his view that a bill should be passed sooner rather than later.

“We want to get cash in the hands of families and businesses that need it the most,” Deese added. “Certainly [we are] open to figuring out if we can make that entire package as effective as possible.”

While the letter released Sunday offered no numeric details of the GOP's framework, Sen. Bill CassidyBill CassidyTop Democrat: 'A lot of spin' coming from White House on infrastructure The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - US gymnast wins all-around gold as Simone Biles cheers from the stands The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - A huge win for Biden, centrist senators MORE (R-La.) told Chris WallaceChristopher (Chris) WallaceAnything-but-bipartisan 1/6 commission will seal Pelosi's retirement. Here's why Biden walks fine line with Fox News Aides who clashed with Giuliani intentionally gave him wrong time for Trump debate prep: book MORE on “Fox News Sunday” that the Republican proposal totaled $600 billion, more than half of the Biden administration's $1.9 trillion that included $1,400 direct payments to individuals.

Cassidy said the GOP measure would include $1,000 direct payments, but he did not specify an income threshold for recipients. The two previous rounds of checks included full amounts for people earning $75,000 or less in recent tax years.

On CNN's "State of the Union," Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanTop Democrat: 'A lot of spin' coming from White House on infrastructure The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - US gymnast wins all-around gold as Simone Biles cheers from the stands The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - A huge win for Biden, centrist senators MORE (R-Ohio) indicated that the GOP plan would provide payments to individual Americans who are made $50,000 or less, telling host Dana BashDana BashKey Biden ally OK with dropping transit from infrastructure package Klobuchar: If Breyer is going to retire from Supreme Court, it should be sooner rather than later Sunday shows - Surgeon general in the spotlight as delta variant spreads MORE that the group "really want[s] to help those who need it the most." He added that aid should not go to many above that salary threshold because it doesn't stimulate the economy due to lack of individuals spending it.

While the letter sent by Republicans, which included Cassidy, recognized Biden's call for unity and pledged to "work in good faith" with the administration, the Louisiana Republican said they would slash funding for schools from Biden's $170 billion suggestion to $20 billion and joined others in the GOP who said Biden's proposal to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour would cost American jobs. 

Cedric RichmondCedric RichmondBiden walks fine line with Fox News Critical race theory becomes focus of midterms Democrats look to flip script on GOP 'defund the police' attacks MORE, a senior adviser to the president, said on CBS's "Face the Nation" that the president was willing to sit down with Republicans, but would not say if the president would consider one of the GOP group's key asks: targeting the direct stimulus payments to Americans earning $50,000 or less, adding only that "70 percent of Americans support President Biden’s plan."

“We want to make it safe for students, teachers, and families of students and teachers," Richmond said, adding that the funds allocated in the White House's $1.9 trillion framework were necessary to make it safe to reopen schools later in the spring.

Senate Democrats have suggested that they may be able to pass Biden's legislation regardless of GOP opposition if done so through budget reconciliation which only requires 51 votes in the Senate in order to avoid the 60-vote threshold. 

Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersDemocrats say they have the votes to advance .5T budget measure Millennial momentum means trouble for the GOP Briahna Joy Gray: White House thinks extending student loan pause is a 'bad look' MORE (I-Vt.), the top Democrat on the Senate Budget Committee, said Sunday on ABC's "This Week" that Democrats have the votes to pass the legislation as is through budget reconciliation measures, a tactic that would likely inflame tensions with centrist Republicans who have called on the newly-sworn-in Biden to restore bipartisanship in the chamber.

Sanders' comments suggests that Democrats believe they could avoid defections among members of their own party.

“Yes, I believe that we do [have the votes] because it's hard for me to imagine any Democrat, no matter what state he or she may come from, who doesn't understand the need to go forward right now in an aggressive way to protect the working families of this country,” Sanders said. "[A]t the end of the day, we're going to support the president of the United States, and we're going to come forward, and we're going to do what the American people overwhelmingly want us to do."