GOP Senators Put Together Smaller Relief Package

Group calls for bipartisan effort to pass COVID relief legislation
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 31, 2021 10:50 AM CST
10 Republican Senators Want to Take $600B Plan to Biden
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, speaks during a hearing earlier this month.   (Melina Mara/The Washington Post via AP, Pool)

A group of 10 Republican senators appealed Sunday to President Biden's desire for unity, proposing a smaller COVID relief plan. "We want to work in good faith with you and your administration to meet the health, economic and societal challenges of the covid crisis," the senators wrote. Their package totals about $600 billion, the Washington Post reports, while Biden's comes to $1.9 trillion. The group, organized by Sen. Susan Collins, wants to meet with Biden to discuss the plan. If the president agrees to the proposal, Collins said, "We believe that this plan could be approved quickly by Congress with bipartisan support." Having the backing of 10 Republicans means that they, plus the 50 Democrats, could push the legislation through the Senate without having to invoke the special budget rules the administration is considering using,

The GOP group wants to prevent the use of that strategy, known as budget reconciliation, per Politico. Jared Bernstein, an economic adviser, said Sunday that Biden "is absolutely willing to negotiate." But Democrats say not spending enough on economic relief is a greater concern than spending too much. "The cost of inaction is extremely high," Bernstein said. Republicans contend $1.9 trillion isn't needed, partly because billions hasn't been spent from earlier relief bills. Their plan is less costly because it apparently will drop items such as raising the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour. Fewer people would qualify for the $1,400 stimulus payments Biden wants to distribute, and some Republicans prefer reducing them to $1,000. Sen. Bill Cassidy signed the letter but blamed the administration for the lack of cooperation. "The president's team did not reach out to anybody in our group, either Democrat or Republican, when they fashioned their proposal," he said. "They've never reached out to us—that's the beginning of the bad faith." (More economic stimulus package stories.)

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