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GOP lawmakers urge Biden to meet with them on virus relief

Joe Biden
Brian Deese
Winter Weather Washington
Rob Portman
Biden Cabinet McDonough
Posted at 1:31 PM, Jan 31, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-31 16:31:32-05

WASHINGTON (AP) — Ten Republican senators are proposing spending about one-third of what President Joe Biden is seeking in coronavirus aid and they're urging him to negotiate rather than try to ram through his $1.9 trillion package solely on Democratic votes.

The group says in a letter to the new president that their counter-proposal will include $160 billion for vaccines, testing, treatment and personal protective equipment and will call for more targeted relief than Biden’s plan to issue $1,400 stimulus checks for most Americans.

Winning the support of 10 Republicans would be significant because if they joined all Democratic senators in backing an eventual compromise, the legislation would reach the 60-vote threshold necessary to overcome potential blocking efforts.

“In the spirit of bipartisanship and unity, we have developed a COVID-19 relief framework that builds on prior COVID assistance laws, all of which passed with bipartisan support,” the Republican senators wrote. “Our proposal reflects many of your stated priorities, and with your support, we believe that this plan could be approved quickly by Congress with bipartisan support.”

The Republicans did not provide many details of their proposal. One of the signatories, Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy, said that it would cost about $600 billion.

“If you can’t find a bipartisan compromise on COVID-19, I don’t know where you can find it,” said Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, who also signed the letter.

The other GOP senators are Susan Collins of Maine, 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 Tillis of North Carolina.

Brian Deese, the top White House economic adviser who is leading the administration’s outreach to Congress, said administration officials were reviewing the letter. He did not immediately commit to a Biden meeting with the lawmakers.

But Cedric Richmond, a senior Biden adviser, said the president “is very willing to meet with anyone to advance the agenda.” When asked about the senators’ plan, Richmond said, “this is about the seriousness of purpose.”

Deese indicated the White House could be open to negotiating on further limiting who would receive stimulus checks. Portman suggested the checks should go to individuals who make no more than $50,000 per year and families capped at $100,000 per year.

Under the Biden plan, families with incomes up to $300,000 could receive some stimulus money.

“That is certainly a place that we’re willing to sit down and think about, are there ways to make the entire package more effective?” Deese said.