Washington – President Joe Biden met late Monday night with a group of Republican senators who have proposed reducing the $ 618 billion coronavirus aid package – a fraction of the $ 1.9 trillion he is seeking – as congressional Democrats Had vowed to pursue with or without GOP support.
Biden wished lawmakers in the Oval Office, making fun of them, making them feel as if they were “back in the Senate” as they began private session. He And Vice President Kamala Harris was hearing on Republicans’ pitch for a smaller, more targeted COVID relief package that would do away with Democratic priorities but could win GOP support and appeals for their effort to unify the country.
The Republican group’s proposal taps into a bipartisan insistence on increasing the country’s vaccine distribution and has expanded virus testing with the aid of $ 160 billion, similar to what Biden proposed. But from there, both plans fell drastically. Less focused on funding, the GOP’s $ 1,000 direct payment would go to fewer homes than the $ 1,400 Biden, and Republicans provide only a fraction of what they want to reopen schools.
They pay nothing to the states, money that Democrats argue is just as important, with Biden’s $ 350 billion plan to hire police, fire and other workers.
President Joe Biden spoke as President Kamala Harris during an event on the economic crisis in Washington DC on January 22, 2021 in the White House State Dining Room, DC (Photo by Alex Wong / Getty Images)
Gone are Democratic priorities such as the gradual raising of the federal minimum wage to $ 15 per hour.
Involving the White House in high-profile Bipartisan negotiations, with House and Senate Democrats announcing they will move forward, will form the basis for approving Biden’s package with a process that does not depend on Republican support for passage Will happen.
Senate Chief Leader Chuck Schumer warned that history is full of “little thinking costs”.
“And the cost of inaction is high and increases, and the time for decisive action is now,” he and Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a joint statement.
The goal is to approve COVID relief by March, when additional unemployment assistance and other epidemic aid ceases.
The alliance of 10 GOP senators, mostly centrist, indicates that at least some people of Republican rank want to work with Biden’s new administration, rather than serve as a minority opposition in Congress. But Democrats are wary of using too much time supporting GOP support that may not offer as much or as little of a package as it did during the 2009 recovery.
The quick talks came as the Congressional Budget Office gave mixed economic forecasts with strong growth expected at a 4.5% annual rate, but the employment rate did not return to pre-epidemic levels for many years.
White House press secretary Jane Saki said there is “clearly a big difference” between the $ 1.9 trillion package Biden proposed and the $ 618 billion counterfire.
Sasaki said on Monday that the meeting with Republican lawmakers would be an “exchange of ideas”, but Biden would reiterate his stance that “the risk is not that it’s too big, it’s the package, the risk is that it’s too small.” is.”
Hours after the GOP’s invitation to meet senators at the White House came when lawmakers sent Biden a letter urging them to negotiate only Democratic votes instead of trying to ram through their relief package.
10 GOP senators wrote to Biden, “We recognize your call for unity and wish to work with your administration in good faith to face the health, economic and social challenges of the COVID crisis.” “We share many of your priorities.”
According to the draft, the cornerstone of the GOP plan is $ 160 billion for health care response – vaccine delivery, a “large-scale expansion” of testing, protective gear and funding for rural hospitals.
Other elements of the package are similar to Biden’s plan but with smaller amounts of $ 20 billion to reopen schools, compared to $ 170 billion. Republican paycheck protection programs offer $ 40 billion for vocational assistance.
Under the GOP proposal, the $ 1,000 direct payment would go to individuals earning up to $ 40,000 a year, or $ 80,000 for couples. The proposal would then begin phasing out subsequent benefits, with no payout for individuals earning more than $ 50,000, or $ 100,000 for couples. This is lower than Biden’s offer of $ 1,400 direct payments at higher income levels.
With Biden’s plan, direct payments would be phased in at higher income levels, and families with incomes up to $ 300,000 could receive some incentive money.
The meeting to be hosted by Biden will be the most public participation in the next round of virus relief for the president.
It would be important for Biden to win the support of 10 Republicans in the 50-50 Senate where Vice President Kamala Harris is the tie-breaker. If all Democrats were to eventually back a compromise bill, the legislation would reach the 60-vote threshold required to reverse potential blocking efforts and pass under regular Senate procedures.
As for Biden’s plea to give more time to the bipartisan negotiations, the president has shown signs of impatience as his party’s more liberal wing consider passing a relief package through a process called budget reconciliation. This would allow the bill to be passed in the Senate with a majority of 51 votes, instead requiring 60 votes to be usually advance.
The White House is committed to finding avenues for bipartisanship, even as it prepares for Democrats to walk alone on a COVID relief bill, a senior administration official called anonymity to discuss private thinking.
However, the number being brought to the table by Republicans was seen to be very low according to the official.
At the same time, the official said, the White House may be ready to accommodate its demand, perhaps shifting some of the less virus-oriented aspects to a later package that is scheduled to go ahead of Congress.
The official said that Biden himself has come on the phone of some Republicans arriving in the White House on Monday and is more likely to get in-out in the coming days.
Other GOP senators invited to meet with Biden include Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mitt Romney of Utah, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Todd Young of Indiana, Jerry Moran of Kansas, Mike Rounds of South Dakota, and Thom of North Carolina There are Tillis.
Biden has leaned on the Senate as vice president to bring decades of his resume and parties together to solve political problems, but less than two weeks into his presidency, Biden talks There has been frustration with the pace of employment as applications for unemployed benefits remain. Stubborn highs and COVID deaths account for 450,000 Americans.
Associated Press authors Alexandra Jaffe, Darlene Superville and Amer Madhani contributed to this report.