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Republicans press Biden to scale back $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief plan

CoronavirusFeb 01, 2021 04:46AM ET
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2/2 © Reuters. The U.S. Capitol dome is seen at night in Washington 2/2

By Sarah N. Lynch and Jarrett Renshaw

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Ten moderate Republican U.S. senators urged President Joe Biden on Sunday to significantly downsize his sweeping $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package to win bipartisan support as Democrats in Congress prepared to push ahead with his plan this week.

Biden responded by inviting the Republican lawmakers to the White House this week for talks, spokeswoman Jen Psaki said, even as he continues to seek a comprehensive, large-scale measure.

“With the virus posing a grave threat to the country, and economic conditions grim for so many, the need for action is urgent, and the scale of what must be done is large," Psaki said in a statement.

Biden spoke to Republican Senator Susan Collins on Sunday, Psaki said, asking her and the other Republicans to come to the White House for "a full exchange of views."

The meeting was scheduled for Monday afternoon, the senators said in a statement.

Earlier, a top White House economic adviser signaled willingness to discuss the ideas raised by the Republicans, who have floated a $600 billion alternative.

But Brian Deese, director of the National Economic Council, told NBC's "Meet the Press" program that the Democratic president was not willing to compromise on the need for a wide-ranging bill to address the public health crisis and economic fallout.

Passage of the new relief legislation would not only affect Americans and businesses reeling during a pandemic that has killed about 440,000 people in the United States but offer an early test of Biden's promise to work to bridge the partisan divide in Washington.

It remained unclear whether the outreach by fewer than a dozen of the 50 Republicans in the 100-seat chamber would shift plans by congressional Democrats to take up legislation in the coming days. Biden and fellow Democrats are seeking to make use of their control of the House of Representatives and Senate to move quickly on the president's top goal of addressing the pandemic.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has said his chamber would begin work on it as early as this week. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Congress would complete a preliminary step before the end of the week.

Biden, who took office on Jan. 20, has proposed $160 billion for vaccines and testing, $170 billion for schools and universities, and funds to give certain Americans a $1,400-per-person stimulus check, among other provisions.

Some Republicans have questioned the overall price tag, while others urged more targeted measures, particularly over the direct payments to individuals. Congress enacted $4 trillion in COVID-19 relief last year.

LESS SCHOOL FUNDING

In their letter to Biden, Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Mitt Romney and seven other senators asked Biden for a meeting and said their compromise plan could be quickly passed with bipartisan support, promising more details on Monday.

They said their bill included more targeted assistance for families in need and additional funds for small businesses, while echoing Biden's $160 billion for more funding to boost vaccines and testing. They also pointed to unspent money from previous COVID-19 relief bills.

"We're targeted to the needs of the American people," Senator Bill Cassidy, one of the 10 senators, told the "Fox News Sunday" program.

Cassidy added that their plan included less school funding, saying many private schools had already reopened and that "the real problem is public schools" and "teachers' unions telling their teachers not to go to work."

Fellow Republican Rob Portman, who also signed the letter, told CNN's "State of the Union" program that direct checks should be limited to individuals making $50,000 and less and families making $100,000 or less.

The 10 Republicans, who also include Shelley Moore Capito, Todd Young, Jerry Moran, Mike Rounds and Thom Tillis, endorsed keeping extra federal unemployment aid amid the pandemic at $300 a week versus Biden's proposed $400 a week. Portman questioned the need for the Biden plan's extension of enhanced unemployment aid through September, noting: "We don't know what the economy is going to look like" then.

The United States leads the world in COVID-19 cases and deaths by a large margin. Public health experts have urged an immediate scaling up of lagging vaccination efforts as new problematic variants of the novel coronavirus emerge.

At $1.9 trillion, Biden's plan "is scaled to have the punch to finally put these dual crises behind us," Jared Bernstein, a member of Biden's Council of Economic Advisers, told "Fox News Sunday," referring to virus control and economic relief.

Biden "is absolutely willing to negotiate," Bernstein added, but said more details of the Republicans' proposal were needed.

Some moderate Democrats also have urged changes to Biden's package, while more liberal Democrats want more spending and other provisions such as a federal minimum wage increase to $15 an hour - more than double the current $7.25-an-hour rate.

With the Senate split 50-50 and Vice President Kamala Harris wielding the tie-breaking vote, Democrats are considering using a parliamentary tool called "reconciliation" that would let the chamber approve the legislation with a simple majority. Under Senate rules, legislation usually requires 60 votes for passage.

Republicans press Biden to scale back $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief plan
 

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Comments (28)
Me comment
Me comment Feb 01, 2021 2:01PM ET
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no state aid no chance the repos now are concern with the deficit after adding $10 trillion under trump.
The Anti Sheep
The Anti Sheep Feb 01, 2021 6:51AM ET
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Moderates lol. Now they want to be conservative. Look at the Debt Clock boys and girls. There's nothing conservative about Big Debt Government.
Kevin Geraldy
Kevin Geraldy Feb 01, 2021 2:53AM ET
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I need the stimulus for buying $GME
Nordic Fire
Nordic Fire Feb 01, 2021 2:44AM ET
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My hope is they Just negotiate and stop the fanatics. For the sake of everyone. We are all tired of the extremes.
Art Fire
Art Fire Feb 01, 2021 12:30AM ET
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Lets report accurately. Any money is an investment, whether 0.8 or 2 trillion it will go into hands that will spend it and put it into the america economy propping up the tax base. I can think of a group of people holding 2.2 trillion welfare the american tax payer they handed thinking about using it to prop up the china tax base.
William Smith
William Smith Feb 01, 2021 12:00AM ET
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Let's report accurately. It's about a .8 billion Covid relief bill and a 21 trillion pure pork bill. Read it, an absolute disgrace. Pelosi should resign tomorrow.
William Smith
William Smith Feb 01, 2021 12:00AM ET
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Auto fill got me. 800 billion Covid relief and 1.1 trillion pure pork.
Chris Sundo
Chris Sundo Jan 31, 2021 11:27PM ET
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Of course all actions must be razor sharply targeted with tax supporting funds becoming taxable income
Maximus Maximus
Maximus Maximus Jan 31, 2021 10:43PM ET
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After gross republican incompetence, they are now responsible for more deaths in this country than in all of WW2.
William Smith
William Smith Jan 31, 2021 10:43PM ET
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Maximus propaganda you spew.
Maximus Maximus
Maximus Maximus Jan 31, 2021 10:43PM ET
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William Smith Those are facts, a concept you seem unfamiliar with
Art Fire
Art Fire Jan 31, 2021 10:26PM ET
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One thing is clear... all states benefit through union and cooperation. None of them by division.
Art Fire
Art Fire Jan 31, 2021 10:24PM ET
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I agree that decades of mismanaged republican states have left their states mired and at the bottom, behind all others but its no reason to continue to make their emergency service workers suffer more. Why all of you want them to hurt more is beyond me.
Art Fire
Art Fire Jan 31, 2021 10:24PM ET
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How dim does this sound? Pretty dm isnt it. Grow up and stop being drama queens and start cooperaring. You dont have to hurt people to help others!
Kelly Mayer
Kelly Mayer Jan 31, 2021 9:24PM ET
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All about bailing out poorly run states and not holding them into account and have them correct their economies. The whole US will suffer economically and it will increase economic turmoil and unemployment in the long run. Imagine if the EU had handed out free money to Portugal, Greece, Italy and Ireland during the Great Recession in 2008... You don't reward destructive financial behavior and bad decisions that ultimately are taking money from the people, by giving these states MORE money. People thinking reducing the bill is taking money from the people need to study a bit about what an economy is and how it works before they type rubbish in here.
Art Fire
Art Fire Jan 31, 2021 9:24PM ET
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Agree republican states have lowest labor participation rates, poorest populations, highest rates of disability, least educated, and worst healthcare. See, two people can play this dm game of insults. How about you grow up and stop propagating division by being a drama queen.
Chris Hunt
Chris Hunt Jan 31, 2021 9:24PM ET
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Art Fire have you ever been to California or New York? Bumb infested ******states. Oh yeah and people and good jobs are leaving in droves.
Harsha Rao
Harsha Rao Jan 31, 2021 7:56PM ET
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dollar dollar eveyr where.....print them up...
Marco cuevas
Marco cuevas Jan 31, 2021 6:59PM ET
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Dems don't need REP for the next 4 years...EXECUTIVE orders.
William Smith
William Smith Jan 31, 2021 6:20PM ET
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This Biden plan has but one real objective, tax everyone in states that have managed their finances responsibly to bail out the states (all run by Democrats) that have over spent their budgets like drunken sailors. It is beyond criminal and it is the only thing holding up relieve checks since October. Schumer and Pelosi are the only folks to blame.
Art Fire
Art Fire Jan 31, 2021 6:20PM ET
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Stop your lies and division. Unless you want *******farmers to go back to bartering for mobile home parts. States all benefit through cooperation not your divisiveness.
Me comment
Me comment Jan 31, 2021 6:20PM ET
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William William William spreading more lies first the election now fake Biden taxes, where will it ever stop. Stop living in the fantasy land created by a bunch of conspiracy spreaders.
Kelly Mayer
Kelly Mayer Jan 31, 2021 6:20PM ET
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Art Fire State our countries that are member of a larger group of states or countries don't always run their economies the same. Some are best run, some are poorly run. If you don't hold poorly run state members into account, the whole group will suffer and get dragged down. Imagine if the EU had thought about handing out free money to Greece, Italy, Portugal and Ireland during the Great Recession in 2008... Insanity. Or corruption to the extreme.
Art Fire
Art Fire Jan 31, 2021 6:20PM ET
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Art Fire
Art Fire Jan 31, 2021 6:20PM ET
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Kelly Mayer Sure drama queen.
Art Fire
Art Fire Jan 31, 2021 6:06PM ET
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This isnt about trump or biden. This is about your neighbor. If you dont care about them then leave the country.
William Smith
William Smith Jan 31, 2021 6:06PM ET
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Gee Art, so obvious you have no idea what's going on. The bill is all about bailing out irresponsible cities and states at the expense of taxpayers in responsible cities and states. All versions of all the Bill's have money to help individuals.
Art Fire
Art Fire Jan 31, 2021 6:06PM ET
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Not sure wht you think paying 40000 cops and emergency service workers is irresponsible but thats just the difference between you and I.
Jeff Chevalier
Jeff Chevalier Jan 31, 2021 6:06PM ET
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Don't bother Art. William Smith would blame the sunrise on Biden and democrats.
ES SS
ES SS Jan 31, 2021 6:06PM ET
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Art Fire  I support my local sherrif but state officer paid roll are paid by the fed government not by thet state ?
Rusty Jabour
RBull Jan 31, 2021 4:39PM ET
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Send me my $1,400 check, you fat cats!
chino Choi
chino Choi Jan 31, 2021 4:25PM ET
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who is footing the bill for all this money ? If no cares , they should make it 20k for every U.S citizen and illegal alien .
Richard Stofan
Richard Stofan Jan 31, 2021 4:25PM ET
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lol citizens are footing the bill. not just u.s. but global. usd- world bank- development loans. yikes
Me comment
Me comment Jan 31, 2021 4:13PM ET
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Cheap GOP always wanting to sound like they want to help America but in reality they could care less.
Peter ONeill
Peter ONeill Jan 31, 2021 4:13PM ET
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Cheap?? $4 Trillion in Debt last year + $4 Trillion pumped in by the Fed. At the start of 2000 the USA was $5 Trillion in debt and had a GDP of $10 Trillion (about 50%)....now it's $28 Trillion in Debt with a GDP of $20 Trillion (about 130% Debt)...you do the math.
Raymond Huggard
Raymond Huggard Jan 31, 2021 4:09PM ET
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Biden will cave and become a liar for not giving 2000 to all. No surprise there. And when gas goes to 5 a gsllin this summer they will be ready for tar and feathers.
Pradip Ghosh
Pradip Ghosh Jan 31, 2021 3:48PM ET
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Trump republicans are not well thought for the people are in disaster in this pendemic. They are still watching monster destructive bad ***Trump. Still have time to reclamation for republicans. Republicans should extend their hands for the people not for the that bad ***
Maximus Maximus
Maximus Maximus Jan 31, 2021 2:43PM ET
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The republicans are irrelevant
New Jazenevd
New Jazenevd Jan 31, 2021 2:30PM ET
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Too complicated desire. Puppet Joey would compromise if someone could explain him what it means.
Will Back
Will Back Jan 31, 2021 1:42PM ET
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The party is above all
Kaveh Sun
Kaveh Sun Jan 31, 2021 1:07PM ET
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Yeah trust the guy who cheated in college
Kaveh Sun
Kaveh Sun Jan 31, 2021 1:07PM ET
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‘Americans need money now’ my rear. Half a month n no 1.4k from China Biden. I’m tire of hearing the same #. Can he come up with new phrases? Probly not since he is not that bright.
Adrian White
Adrian White Jan 31, 2021 1:07PM ET
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At least he's bright enough not to spell 'probably' as 'probly' and not to confuse 'tire' with 'tired'.
 
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