President Biden To Meet With GOP Senators To Discuss Covid-19 Relief

The group of 10 Republican Senators are planning to propose a stimulus package that would be less than one-third the size of Biden’s current plan.

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GOP Senators are meeting with President Biden today to propose an alternative Covid-19 relief package as the White House and congressional Democrats gear up to move forward with Biden’s current $1.9 trillion plan. Congressional Democrats claim that they’re prepared to move forward with the current proposed plan with or without GOP support, especially considering Americans have now gone the entire pandemic without any consistent government assistance. 

Senator Susan Collins is leading the GOP group, and in a letter to Biden sent on Sunday she requested the meeting and the White House quickly extended an invitation to meet with the president for “a full exchange of ideas.” 

“We appreciate the president’s quick response to our letter, and we are pleased to accept his invitation to the White House tomorrow afternoon to discuss the path forward for the sixth bipartisan COVID-19 relief package,” the group’s statement read. Republican Senators are currently offering a relief package that would total around $618 billion; less than a third of the size of the package Biden’s administration is already prepared to pass. The plan would call for $160 billion to be used for vaccine development, distribution, and testing/tracing. $132 billion would be used for unemployment benefits and $220 billion for a new round of direct stimulus payments.

“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.”

Under the GOP proposal individuals making less than $40,000 would receive direct payments of $1,000, and couples filing jointly with an income less than $80,000 would receive direct payments as well. An additional $500 would be added for each dependent child or adult as well. The extended unemployment benefits would total $300 per week on top of regular state benefits. The GOP is suggesting that those additional unemployment benefits last until June, while Biden has previously claimed it should last until September. 

The GOP’s statement claimed that their “ 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. We request the opportunity to meet with you to discuss our proposal in greater detail and how we can work together to meet the needs of the American people during this persistent pandemic.”

The Republican senators are hoping their package will be a good starting point for creating bipartisan support among Congress as well. Meanwhile congressional Democrats are currently preparing to move forward with a budget reconciliation, a process that would pass Biden’s Covid-19 plan based on a simple majority of Senate support. Brian Deese, Biden’s top economic adviser, spoke with the press recently about these disagreements over stimulus packages.

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“What Biden’s uncompromising about is the need to move with speed on a comprehensive approach here, so we need to act with speed, but we’re going to continue to have conversations as we go forward.”

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Within the past week a slew of Republican Senators criticized how much money was being allocated to the Covid-19 stimulus program. Some republican senators that signed the letter to Biden include Collins, Rob Portman of Ohio, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mitt Romney of Utah, Shelley Moore Capitol of West Virginia, Todd Young of Indiana, Jerry Moran of Kansas, Mike Rounds of South Dakota and Thom Tillis of North Carolina. 

The GOP group is projected to release more specific details on their proposal this Monday when they meet with the president. Eight of the individuals who signed the letter spoke with Deese last week, and he went on to explain that while the White House and president will be reviewing the most recent letter submitted by republicans, the president refuses to compromise on core provisions of his relief package. 

“The president has said repeatedly he is open to ideas wherever they may come, that we could improve upon the approach to actually tackling this crisis. He’s willing to meet with anyone to move the process forward, but it must be done comprehensively and promptly,” Deese said.

“The president said in his inauguration speech that he wanted to work with both sides in order to help the American people. What we know about President Biden is it’s never about him, it’s always about the people. So yes, he’s very willing to meet with anyone to advance the agenda,” said Cedric Richmond, a senior adviser to the president. If one thing is for sure, Americans should hopefully have a concrete specific plan of action for the rest of this pandemic within the next week.