Biden Invites Republican Senators to Discuss Covid-19 Relief Plans

Biden Invites Republican Senators to Discuss Covid-19 Relief Plans

The 10 senators proposed a $600 billion plan, as Democrats prepared to advance a $1.9 trillion package without GOP support

President Biden invited a group of Republican senators to discuss a coronavirus-relief bill after they proposed a $600 billion plan, as Democrats prepared to advance the White House’s $1.9 trillion package without GOP support.

Mr. Biden issued the invitation to the 10 Republican senators, asking they come to the White House early this week for a “full exchange of views,” the White House said in a statement Sunday evening. It said Mr. Biden made the invitation in a conversation with Sen. Susan Collins (R., Maine), who helped organize the Republican proposal.

In a letter Sunday, the Republican senators asked to meet with Mr. Biden to present details of their proposal and said they were coming forward in response to his appeal for bipartisanship.

The GOP proposal would cost around $600 billion, according to Sen. Bill Cassidy (R., La.), who signed the letter, less than one-third of what Mr. Biden has proposed. Republicans said they would retain the $160 billion the Biden package includes to increase vaccinations and take other efforts to control the spread of the coronavirus, but strip or scale back other measures. The GOP plan, for instance, would reduce the $1,400 direct payments to Americans Mr. Biden has called for to roughly $1,000, Mr. Cassidy said on “Fox News Sunday.”

The offer is the first Republicans have forwarded since Mr. Biden proposed the $1.9 trillion plan, which Republicans have said is too costly and includes unneeded initiatives, and tests whether the Biden administration and Democrats in Congress will seek compromise or try to pass the relief package themselves. Democratic leaders have said they plan to begin a legislative process that would bypass the need for Republican support this week, with the first step coming as soon as Monday.

Mr. Biden also spoke Sunday with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, according to White House press secretary Jen Psaki. She said in a statement that Mr. Biden is “grateful that Congress is prepared to begin action” on the administration’s package.

On Sunday, the Biden administration showed no signs of backing off its $1.9 trillion price tag, with key economic advisers appearing on several television shows to tout the need for the relief bill.

Brian Deese, Mr. Biden’s top economic adviser, said the White House is reviewing the Republicans’ letter and is willing to discuss ways to make the relief package more effective.

Mr. Deese, responding to questions on two Sunday morning news shows, declined to say whether the $1.9 trillion spending level is negotiable and suggested that delaying relief would worsen the pandemic and its effects on the economy.

“If we don’t act now the cost of that is going to be greater going forward,” Mr. Deese said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

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