ALL NEWS

Biden meets Republicans on virus aid, but no quick deal

Feb 2, 2021, 7:34 AM | Updated: 7:58 am

Utah Sen. Mitt Romney was one of the 10 GOP lawmakers who met with the President at the White House on Monday night. He joins us live at 8:15 a.m.

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden told Republican senators during a two-hour meeting Monday night he’s unwilling to settle on an insufficient coronavirus aid package after they pitched their slimmed down $618 billion proposal that’s a fraction of the $1.9 trillion he is seeking.

No compromise was reached in the lengthy session, Biden’s first with lawmakers at the White House, and Democrats in Congress pushed ahead with groundwork for approving his COVID relief plan with or without Republican votes. Despite the Republican group’s appeal for bipartisanship, as part of Biden’s efforts to unify the country, the president made it clear he won’t delay aid in hopes of winning GOP support.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that 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.”

She said, “He will not slow down work on this urgent crisis response, and will not settle for a package that fails to meet the moment.”

The two sides are far apart, with the Republican group of 10 senators focused primarily on the health care crisis and smaller $1,000 direct aid to Americans, and Biden leading Democrats toward a more sweeping rescue package, three times the size, to shore up households, local governments and a partly shuttered economy.

On a fast track, the goal is to have COVID relief approved by March, when extra unemployment assistance and other pandemic aid expires, testing the ability of the new administration and Congress to deliver, with political risks for all sides from failure.

Opinion: Don’t just do something, stand there – a lesson from the fridge

Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine called the meeting a “frank and very useful” conversation, noting that the president also filled in some details on his proposal.

“All of us are concerned about struggling families, teetering small businesses and an overwhelmed health care system,” said Collins, flanked by other senators outside the White House.

Republicans are tapping into bipartisan urgency to improve the nation’s vaccine distribution and vastly expand virus testing with $160 billion in aid. That is similar to what Biden has proposed. But from there, the two plans drastically diverge.

The GOP’s $1,000 direct payments would go to fewer households than the $1,400 Biden has proposed, and the Republicans offer only a fraction of what he wants to reopen schools.

They also would give nothing to states, money that Democrats argue is just as important, with $350 billion in Biden’s plan to keep police, fire and other workers on the job.

Gone are Democratic priorities such as a gradual lifting of the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.

Wary Democrats pushed ahead at the Capitol, unwilling to take too much time in courting GOP support that may not materialize or in delivering too meager a package that they believe doesn’t address the scope of the nation’s health crisis and economic problems.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer warned that history is filled with “the costs of small thinking.”

House and Senate Democrats released a separate budget resolution Monday a step toward approving Biden’s package with a reconciliation process that wouldn’t depend on Republican support for passage.

“The cost of inaction is high and growing, and the time for decisive action is now,” Schumer and Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement.

The accelerating talks came as the Congressional Budget Office delivered mixed economic forecasts Monday with robust growth expected at a 4.5% annual rate but employment rates not to return to pre-pandemic levels for several years.

The overture from the coalition of 10 GOP senators, mostly centrists, was an attempt to show that at least some in the Republican ranks want to work with Biden’s new administration, rather than simply operating as the opposition in the minority in Congress.

Asked if Biden had shown a willingness to reduce his $1.9 trillion top line, Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, said, “He didn’t say that, nor did we say we’re willing to come up” from the GOP plan. He said it’s “too early” to say if a deal can be reached.

But in echoes of the 2009 financial crisis, Democrats warn against too small a package as they believe happened during the Obama administration’s attempt to pull the nation toward recovery.

Psaki said earlier Monday there is “obviously a big gap” between the $1.9 trillion package Biden has proposed and the $618 billion counteroffer.

An invitation to the GOP senators to meet with Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris at the White House came hours after the lawmakers sent Biden a letter on Sunday urging him to negotiate rather than try to ram through his relief package solely on Democratic votes.

The cornerstone of the GOP plan is $160 billion for the health care response — vaccine distribution, a “massive expansion” of testing, protective gear and funds for rural hospitals, according to a draft.

It also includes $20 billion to reopen schools compared to $170 billion in Biden’s plan. The Republicans offer $40 billion for Paycheck Protection Program business aid.

Under the GOP proposal, $1,000 direct payments would go to individuals earning up to $40,000 a year, or $80,000 for couples. The proposal would begin to phase out the benefit after that, with no payments for individuals earning more than $50,000, or $100,000 for couples. That’s less than Biden’s proposal of $1,400 direct payments at higher incomes levels, up to $300,000 for some households.

The meeting, though private, was Biden’s most public involvement in the negotiations.

Winning the support of 10 Republicans would be significant for Biden, potentially giving him the votes needed in the 50-50 Senate where Harris is the tie-breaker. Or he can push it through the budget reconciliation process, which would allow the bill to pass with a 51-vote majority in the Senate, rather than the 60 votes typically needed to advance legislation.

The White House remains committed to exploring avenues for bipartisanship even as it prepares for Democrats to move alone on a COVID relief bill, according to a senior administration official granted anonymity to discuss the private thinking.

At the same time, the White House may be willing to adjust its ask, perhaps shifting some less virus-oriented aspects into a package that is set to go next before Congress, the official said.

Biden himself has been on the phone to some of the Republicans, the official said.

Besides Collins and Cassidy, the GOP senators meeting with Biden were Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mitt Romney of Utah, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Todd Young of Indiana, Jerry Moran of Kansas, Rob Portman of Ohio, Thom Tillis of North Carolina. Sen. Mike Rounds of South Dakota joined by phone.

Biden has leaned on his resume of decades in the Senate and as vice president to bring the parties together, but less than two weeks into his presidency he has shown frustration with the pace of negotiations as applications for jobless benefits remain stubbornly high and the COVID death toll nears 450,000 Americans.

___

Associated Press writers Alan Fram, Alexandra Jaffe, Darlene Superville and Aamer Madhani contributed to this report.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

All News

Liver and kidney transplant patient Luis Campos says he's grateful he had a Spanish-speaking team....

Eric Cabrera

Murray kidney clinic helping the Latino community

MURRAY, Utah — Intermountain Health has taken steps to address healthcare in Latino communities by opening Utah’s first fully Spanish-speaking Kidney Transplant Clinic. The Intermountain Clinica Hispana de Riñon (Hispanic Kidney Clinic), in Murray, aims to provide a space for members of the Latino community navigating the complex kidney transplant process. The clinic has bilingual professionals, […]

5 hours ago

NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter captured this image of the Intuitive Machines Nova-C lander, al...

Jackie Wattles, CNN

Odysseus lunar lander shares new photos from its harrowing descent

The vehicle softly touched down on the moon on Thursday, becoming the first US-made lander to do so since the Apollo era.

6 hours ago

FILE: Sen. Mike McKell, R-Spanish Fork, and Rep. Jordan Teuscher, R-South Jordan, speak about their...

Aimee Cobabe

Bill allowing parents to sue social media companies moves closer to becoming law

HB464 gives Utah parents the power to sue a social media company if their child develops mental health issues after using the apps

7 hours ago

FILE: An Angel bike given to the family of Eli Mitchell in April, 2023. Mitchell was hit and killed...

Britt Johnson

Families of drunk driving victims fight possible new Utah liquor license legislation

The bill sponsored by Rep. Jefferson Burton would increase the number of liquor licenses issued by the state of Utah.

8 hours ago

Vehicles at Weber Fire District Station shown, the station responded to an oil spill in ogden today...

Dan Bammes

Ogden Hazmat responds to oily spill on 21st Street and I-15

The spill resulted in a level 2, or moderate, hazmat response with the priority of keeping the mixture off of I-15 in Ogden.

8 hours ago

Homelessness grew by 12% in 2023 from last year, meaning 70,650 more people were unhoused....

Mariah Maynes

No one-size-fits-all solution to help those experiencing homelessness, expert says

Those experiencing homelessness in Utah often are presented with similar options, regardless of their situation. 

9 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Mother and cute toddler child in a little fancy wooden cottage, reading a book, drinking tea and en...

Visit Bear Lake

How to find the best winter lodging in Bear Lake, Utah

Winter lodging in Bear Lake can be more limited than in the summer, but with some careful planning you can easily book your next winter trip.

Happy family in winter clothing at the ski resort, winter time, watching at mountains in front of t...

Visit Bear Lake

Ski more for less: Affordable ski resorts near Bear Lake, Utah

Plan your perfect ski getaway in Bear Lake this winter, with pristine slopes, affordable tickets, and breathtaking scenery.

front of the Butch Cassidy museum with a man in a cowboy hat standing in the doorway...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Looking Back: The History of Bear Lake

The history of Bear Lake is full of fascinating stories. At over 250,000 years old, the lake has seen generations of people visit its shores.

silhouette of a family looking over a lake with a bird in the top corner flying...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

8 Fun Activities To Do in Bear Lake Without Getting in the Water

Bear Lake offers plenty of activities for the whole family to enjoy without having to get in the water. Catch 8 of our favorite activities.

Wellsville Mountains in the spring with a pond in the foreground...

Wasatch Property Management

Advantages of Renting Over Owning a Home

Renting allows you to enjoy luxury amenities and low maintenance without the long-term commitment and responsibilities of owning a home.

Clouds over a red rock vista in Hurricane, Utah...

Wasatch Property Management

Why Southern Utah is a Retirement Paradise

Retirement in southern Utah offers plenty of cultural and recreational opportunities. Find out all that this region has to offer.

Biden meets Republicans on virus aid, but no quick deal