President Biden will meet Monday with 10 Senate Republicans for talks over a coronavirus relief package that has become a political hotrod for Democrats and Republicans in the early days of the new administration.
The senators broke ranks with their party colleagues last week in a letter to the Democratic president, noting Biden’s inaugural call for national unity and asking to collaborate on an economic assistance package for pandemic-struck families. Both sides want to pass legislation, but the sides are far apart on the details: The president has been focused on a $1.9 trillion package that would include a $1,400 stimulus check for most Americans and would push several long-standing Democratic policy items such as hiking the federal minimum wage.
The Republican proposal, on the other hand, is more modest: $600 billion, to be limited to Covid-related economic damage. The GOP members stressed several areas of agreement with the president including the need to channel aid to needy Americans, bolstering small businesses and re-opening schools, but they added that several billion dollars allocated by Congress and signed into law by President Trump late last year have not yet been used. They propose $1000 stimulus payments.
“In 2020, Members of the House and Senate and the previous Administration came together on a bipartisan basis five times to direct the resources of the federal government toward combatting the urgent COVID-19 pandemic. Each of these laws received the support of members from both political parties. With your support, we believe Congress can once again craft a relief package that will provide meaningful, effective assistance to the American people and set us on a path to recovery,” the letter said.
Predictably, the group is led by Senators Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Rob Portman of Ohio, all of whom were critical of former President Donald Trump’s attempts to reverse his election loss and said they would not rule out convicting Mr. Trump in the upcoming impeachment trial.
Other signatories on the list, however, were not so predictable: Senators Jerry Moran of Kansas and Thom Tillis of North Carolina, for instance, both oppose the move to try the former president for insurrection for his role in the January 6 riot in which protesters stormed the Capitol.