Biden doesn’t buy GOP’s Covid pitch


Biden promised to promote democracy and fight authoritarianism across the globe. Now, he’s facing a foreign policy crisis that puts those promises to the test: a military coup in Myanmar.

“This needs to be big enough to get the job done. If we’re having to come back time and time again, I just don’t think that’s good for the economy or for certainty,” Tester said at the Capitol.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced they would continue setting up budget reconciliation this week, which would evade the Senate’s 60-vote requirement. They will pass a budget this week instructing committees to write a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill, which includes items like raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour and giving $400 in additional weekly unemployment assistance through September.

“While there were areas of agreement, the President also reiterated his view that Congress must respond boldly and urgently, and noted many areas which the Republican senators’ proposal does not address. He reiterated that while he is hopeful that the Rescue Plan can pass with bipartisan support, a reconciliation package is a path to achieve that end,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said after the meeting.

But she added that Biden “will not slow down work on this urgent crisis response, and will not settle for a package that fails to meet the moment.”

Schumer essentially told Republicans they could hop on board with reconciliation if they have good ideas, but that Democrats wouldn’t slash their ambitions because of GOP resistance.

“Congress must pursue a bold and robust course of action. It makes no sense to pinch pennies,” Schumer said. “There is nothing in this process that will preclude it from being bipartisan. We welcome Republican input.”

The meeting with Biden was clinched during a Sunday phone call between the president and Collins, their third since the election. Collins led the Republican senators in a letter to Biden requesting a meeting on Sunday morning.

Collins and her GOP colleagues’ proposal would provide $160 billion for testing, vaccines and personal protective equipment, extend the $300 weekly unemployment insurance payments until July and provide $1,000 checks to lower-income Americans, according to a draft framework.

A source familiar with the meeting confirmed Biden brought up his experience with reconciliation and also indicated openness to more targeted direct payments.

Those checks would begin phasing out much earlier than Biden’s plan and would be capped at $100,000 for joint filers. Dependents and children would receive an additional $500 each. People in both parties have complained that the $1,400 checks from Biden should not go to higher-income families.

Collins suggested targeted checks could be one area of compromise, though considering her group’s proposal is one-third the size of Biden’s there would have to be a lot more give. Still Biden indicated interest in trying to target those payments to focus more on lower-income earners and said he would follow up with the senators.

“It’s not like, ‘oh we’re going to look into it,’ pat, pat, go away,” Capito said. “I think whether we have more meeting on Covid or not, I think it shows that he really wants to have conversations and work out our differences and do it in a way in which we’re not alienating each other on the next topic, whatever it might be.”

The group includes Collins, Capito and GOP Sens. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, Mike Rounds of South Dakota, Mitt Romney of Utah, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Rob Portman of Ohio, Todd Young of Indiana and Jerry Moran of Kansas.

Democrats have complained that Republicans are coming in nowhere near Biden’s starting point for negotiations. Moreover, the omission of state and local funding is a nonstarter for Democrats.

“The package outlined by 10 Senate Republicans is far too small to provide the relief the American people need. In particular, a three-month extension of jobless benefits is a non-starter,” said Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), the incoming Finance chair. “An extension of benefits for at least six months is essential.”

Republicans say Biden will start off his administration on the wrong foot if he doesn’t try to compromise with the GOP on coronavirus legislation. They argued over the past few days that pursuing budget reconciliation would undercut Biden’s pledge to be a bipartisan president.

Laura Barrón-López contributed to this report.



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