United States President Joe Biden is set to meet with a group of 10 Republican senators on Monday who have offered $ 618 billion in coronavirus relief, about a third of the $ 1.9 trillion he seeks as Democrats of Congress are prepared to move forward without the support of Republicans.
Republicans are offering slimmer benefits, including $ 1,000 in direct payments to people earning up to $ 40,000 a year, or $ 80,000 for couples, according to a draft obtained by the Associated Press.
The proposal would begin phasing out benefits thereafter, with no payment for people earning over $ 50,000 or $ 100,000 for couples. That’s less than Biden’s proposal for $ 1,400 in direct payments to higher income levels.
The cornerstone of the GOP plan appears to be $ 160 billion for the health care response – the distribution of vaccines, a “massive expansion” of testing, protective equipment and funds for rural hospitals, according to the project.
Other parts of the package are similar but sell for much smaller amounts, with $ 20 billion for reopening schools and $ 40 billion for paycheck protection program trade assistance.
An invitation to GOP senators to meet at the White House came hours after lawmakers sent a letter to Biden on Sunday, urging him to negotiate rather than trying to push his back-up plan down solely on votes. democrats.
The House and Senate are on track to vote this week on a budget resolution, which would lay the groundwork for passing a rules-based aid package requiring only a simple majority vote in a tightly divided Senate.
The aim is to pass the legislation by March, when additional unemployment assistance and other pandemic assistance expires. The meeting hosted by Biden would be the president’s biggest public involvement in negotiations for the next round of virus relief. Democratic and Republican lawmakers are very distant in their proposals for assistance.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Sunday that Biden spoke with the group’s leader, Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine. Although Biden wants “a full exchange of views,” Psaki reiterated that the president remains in favor of large-scale relief action.
“With the virus posing a serious threat to the country and grim economic conditions for so many, the need to act is urgent and the scale of what needs to be done is great,” Psaki said.
In challenging Biden to fulfill his promise of unity, the group said in its letter that its counter-proposal would include $ 160 billion for vaccines, tests, treatment and personal protective equipment and called for a More targeted relief than Biden’s plan to issue $ 1,400 stimulus checks to most Americans.
Winning the support of 10 Republicans would be important for Biden in the 50-50 Senate, where Vice President Kamala Harris is the tiebreaker. If all Democrats supported a possible compromise bill, the legislation would meet the 60-vote threshold needed to overcome potential blockade efforts and pass through due Senate procedures.
“In the spirit of bipartisanship and unity, we have developed a COVID-19 relief framework that builds on previous COVID assistance laws, all of which passed with bipartisan support,” Senators wrote. republicans. “Our proposal reflects many of your stated priorities and, with your support, we believe this plan could be approved quickly by Congress with bipartisan support.”
The call for Biden to give bipartisan negotiations more time comes as the president has shown signs of impatience as his party’s more liberal wing considers pushing the rescue plan through a process known as name of budget reconciliation. This would allow the bill to move forward with only the support of its Democratic majority.
Republicans did not provide many details on their proposal. One of the signatories, Louisiana Senator Bill Cassidy, said it would cost around $ 600 billion.
“If you can’t find a bipartisan compromise on COVID-19, I don’t know where you can find it,” said Ohio Senator Rob Portman, who also signed the letter.
But even as Biden extended the invitation to Republican lawmakers, Psaki said relief checks of $ 1,400, substantial funding to reopen schools, help small businesses and injured families, and more, ” were absolutely necessary ”.
“As leading economists have said, the danger is not doing too much, but doing too little,” Psaki said. “Americans on both sides expect their leaders to meet the moment.”
Biden also spoke on Sunday with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who face increasing pressure from more liberal Democratic MPs to move forward with Biden’s legislation with or without Republican support.
Other GOP Senators invited to meet with Biden are Lisa Murkowski from Alaska, Mitt Romney from Utah, Shelley Moore Capito from West Virginia, Todd Young from Indiana, Jerry Moran from Kansas, Mike Rounds from South Dakota. and Thom Tillis of North Carolina.
Brian Deese, the White House’s senior economic adviser leading the administration’s outreach to Congress, has indicated that the White House may be open to negotiating new limits on who would receive stimulus checks. Portman suggested that the checks should go to people who earn no more than $ 50,000 per year and families capped at $ 100,000 per year.
Under the Biden Plan, families with incomes of up to $ 300,000 could receive stimulus money.
“It’s definitely a place we’re ready to sit down and think, are there ways to make the whole package more efficient?” Said Deese.
As a candidate, Biden predicted his decades in the Senate and his eight years as Vice President of US President Barack Obama gave him credibility as a negotiator and would help him bring Republicans and Democrats to a consensus on the most important issues facing the country.
But less than two weeks after starting his presidency, Biden showed his frustration with the pace of negotiations at a time when the economy presented new evidence of wear and tear from the coronavirus pandemic. Last week, 847,000 Americans filed for unemployment benefits, a sign that layoffs remain high as the pandemic continues to rage.
“I support the shift from aid to COVID with the support of Republicans if we can get it. But COVID relief has to pass – no ifs, and or buts, ”Biden said on Friday.
In the letter, Republican lawmakers reminded Biden that in his inaugural address he proclaimed that the challenges facing the nation demand “the most elusive thing in a democracy: unity.”
Cassidy separately criticized the current Biden plan as being “full of donations and rewards to Democratic constituency groups.”
“You want the patina of bipartisanship… so it’s not unity,” Cassidy said.
Jared Bernstein, a member of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, said officials needed more details on Republicans. Doing too little to stimulate the economy could have a huge impact on the economy in the short and long term, he said.
“Listen, the American people really don’t care about the budget process, whether it’s regular order, bipartisanship, filibuster, reconciliation,” Bernstein said. “They need help, and they need it now.”