In the first major test to determine whether Republicans and U.S. Democrats can work together under President Joe Biden, a group of 10 Republican senators presented a $ 618 billion coronavirus relief plan to the new President at Home on Monday. White.
President Biden has offers a more ambitious legislative package valued at $ 1.9 trillion and Democratic members of his party are poised to push the bill through Congress without Republican votes.
The political choice for Biden is difficult: keep his campaign promise to try to unify the country after years of division, or give up some of what Democrats want for COVID-19 relief to be done to get a bipartisan deal with Republicans.
“A deal is possible,” said Keith Whittington, professor of politics at Princeton University.
“It depends on Biden’s willingness to set the tone for bipartisanship,” Whittington told Al Jazeera.
All 10 Republican Senators met Biden at the White House on Monday night after sending him off a letter on January 31 urging him to negotiate rather than block a larger relief package by Congress solely on Democratic votes.
Senator Susan Collins, who heads the group of moderate Republicans which includes Senators Lisa Murkowski, Mitt Romney and Shelley Moore Capito, told reporters the group had an “excellent” meeting with Biden, but they failed to a deal.
Collins said she was hopeful, however, that Congress could adopt another relief package for COVID-19.
Republicans reminded Biden in their letter that in his inaugural address he proclaimed that the challenges the United States faces demand “what is most elusive in a democracy … unity.”
The Democrat-controlled House and Senate are set to vote as early as this week on a budget resolution, which would lay the groundwork for passing a rule-based aid package requiring only a majority vote simple in a tightly divided Senate.
Pressure to act
Even before Biden’s meeting with senators, Democrats tabled a joint $ 1.9 trillion budget measure on Monday, a key step toward Republicans bypassing COVID-19 aid.
“Democrats welcome the ideas and contributions of our Senate Republican colleagues. The only thing we cannot accept is a package that is too small or too narrow to get our country out of this emergency, ”said Democratic Senate Leader Chuck Schumer.
Add pressure on Congress To take action, additional unemployment aid and other pandemic aid approved in 2020 will expire in March.
Republicans offer slimmer benefits, including $ 1,000 in direct payments to individuals earning up to $ 40,000 a year, or $ 80,000 for couples. Individuals earning more than $ 50,000 and couples earning more than $ 100,000 would not be eligible.
Biden offered stimulus checks of $ 1,400 per person for people earning higher incomes up to $ 300,000 per year.
Ahead of today’s meeting with President Biden, our group unveiled the details of our sixth proposal for Covid-19 relief. We look forward to discussing the proposal with the president at the White House this afternoon.https://t.co/MErliN2meG
– Senator Susan Collins (@SenatorCollins) February 1, 2021
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.
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.
“He is likely to have difficulty selling the left of his own party on a deal that is in part motivated by a compromise with the centrists,” Whittington said.
“He might simply prefer to carry out his ambitious political and legislative agenda without them. If so, it will compromise the possibility of bipartite events later. “
The call for Biden to give more time to bipartisan negotiations comes as the president has shown signs of impatience as his party’s more liberal wing considers pushing the relief plan through the budget process.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the meeting was an opportunity for Biden to exchange views with Republicans and was “not a forum for the president to make or accept a offer”.
Biden’s view is that the risks Congress and its administration currently face are that the COVID-19 relief legislation would be “too small” rather than “too big,” Psaki told reporters at the White House .