Ten G.O.P. senators sketch out their own proposed relief bill in a letter to Biden.February 1, 2021
Ten Republican senators wrote to President Biden on Sunday, outlining a framework for coronavirus relief legislation and pushing for Mr. Biden to compromise. The letter came as Democrats were preparing to bypass the need for Republican support in order to deliver a sweeping relief package.
The 10 senators, led by Susan Collins of Maine, proposed a framework that includes some of the provisions in Mr. Biden’s $1.9 trillion plan but would curtail others, including eligibility for direct payments and unemployment aid. It would include $160 billion for vaccine distribution and development, Covid testing and the production of personal protective equipment, along with relief for schools, small businesses and “more targeted assistance” for individuals.
“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 senators wrote.
The group, which also includes Mitt Romney of Utah, Michael Rounds of South Dakota, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, is expected to release additional details of their proposal on Monday.
One of the signers, Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, said on “Fox News Sunday” that he expected the Republican package to total about $600 billion, roughly one-third of what Mr. Biden has proposed.
Another, Rob Portman of Ohio, called for a smaller stimulus package that would limit direct payments so that they would not go to Americans earning more than $50,000 a year or to families with a combined income exceeding $100,000.
“Let’s focus on those who are struggling,” Mr. Portman said on the CNN program “State of the Union.”
To pass a package through the regular legislative process, Mr. Biden would need 60 votes in the Senate. Adding the 10 Republicans who signed the letter to the 50 Democrats in the chamber would just reach that threshold. But substantially shrinking the size of the package would probably cost Mr. Biden Democratic support in both the Senate and the House of Representatives.
Mr. Biden and top Democrats have said they want Republican support for a new relief bill. But with several Republicans already balking at passing a sweeping package, Democrats are preparing to pass a bill on their own using budget reconciliation, a legislative process that is more complicated but requires only a simple majority in the Senate.
Mr. Portman warned against going that route, saying on CNN that doing so would “set President Biden down a path of partisanship that will poison the well.”
The 10 Republicans’ letter appeared to do little on Sunday to change the Democrats’ plans, which begin with the introduction of a budget resolution later this week. Administration officials signaled on Sunday that they intended to resist calls to reduce the scale of the relief package.
Jared Bernstein, a member of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, said on “Fox News Sunday” that speed in approving a package was more important to most Americans than how Congress goes about it.
“President Biden has consistently said he will negotiate with those on the other side of the aisle about getting this plan out as quickly as possible,” Mr. Bernstein said.