New York Times – A coalition of 10 Republican senators took a stimulus counterproposal to the White House on Monday evening, urging President Biden to scale back his ambitions for a sweeping $1.9 trillion pandemic aid package in favor of a plan less than one-third the size that they argued could garner the bipartisan consensus the new president has said he is seeking.
After a two-hour meeting, Senator Susan Collins of Maine, the leader of the Republican group, said the discussion had been excellent, though “I wouldn’t say that we came together on a package tonight.” She said Mr. Biden and the senators had agreed to continue their talks.
The discussions took place as Democrats prepared to push forward on Mr. Biden’s plan with or without Republican backing, and as the president faced a test of whether he would opt to pursue a scaled-back measure that could fulfill his pledge to foster broad compromise, or use his majority in Congress to reach for a more robust relief effort enacted over stiff Republican opposition.
Mr. Biden appeared eager to signal an openness to negotiating, telling Ms. Collins that he was “anxious” to hear what the senators had to say as they chatted in the Oval Office before the meeting began, and spending much of the evening behind closed doors in what both sides described as a cordial and productive session.
“All of us are concerned about struggling families, teetering small businesses, an overwhelmed health care system, getting vaccines out and into people’s arms, and strengthening our economy and addressing the public health crisis that we face,” Ms. Collins said.
Even so, despite all the talk of comity and common ground, the White House came back with its bottom line after all had gone home.
The GOP moderates’ proposal includes several elements of the Biden plan:
- resources for vaccine distribution;
- an extension of unemployment/food aid benefits;
- direct payments to individuals (smaller and more targeted than Biden’s);
- money for schools and childcare.
Unlike the Biden proposal, the GOP moderates’ plan has additional money for small business aid (PPP and EIDL), but it does not have money for state/local fiscal aid (its omission probably is meant to respect McConnell’s linkage of fiscal aid to liability relief).