Ayyyeee… What’s Goodie Everyone. So I got some tea and it involves Joe Biden, some senate Republicans and talks about Biden’s stimulus package.
10 Republican senators took a stimulus counterproposal to the White House on Monday evening, urging President Joe 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 the 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 Biden and the senators had agreed to continue their talks. Discussions took place as Democrats prepared to push forward on Biden’s plan with or without Republican backing, and as Biden 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.
Biden seemed to signal an openness to negotiating, telling 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.
The senators took turns discussing different aspect of the proposals, Senator Bill Cassidy who is a Republican of Louisiana, who focused his comments on education funding.“He didn’t concede anything,” Cassidy said of the president. “He said, ‘Let’s have our staffs share numbers and let’s build on that.’ If we’re going to go forward as a country we have to do a better job than we’ve been doing of figuring out where those who disagree with us are coming from. The president said at one point, “We can all agree that we need to care for those in need.”
Republicans outlined their plan as the Congressional Budget Office projected that the American economy would return to its pre pandemic size by the middle of this year, even if Congress did not approve any more federal aid for the recovery, but that it would be years before everyone thrown off the job by the pandemic would be able to return to work. The projections were likely to inject even more debate into the discussions over the stimulus measure, emboldening those who have pushed Biden to scale back his plan. But they also indicated that there was little risk that another substantial package of federal aid could “overheat” the economy, and reflected the prolonged difficulties of shaking off the virus and returning to full levels of economic activity.
The Republicans $618 billion proposal would include many of the same elements as Biden’s plan, with $160 billion for vaccine distribution and development, coronavirus testing and the production of personal protective equipment; $20 billion to help schools reopen; more relief for small businesses; and additional aid to individuals. But it differs in ways large and small, omitting a federal minimum wage increase or direct aid to states and cities.
The direct payments to Americans would provide $1,000 instead of $1,400 and limiting them to the lowest income earners, excluding individuals who earned more than $50,000. It would also pare back federal jobless aid, which is set to lapse in March, setting weekly payments at $300 through June instead of $400 through September.
Hours before Biden sat down with the Republicans, Democratic leaders began laying the groundwork to move forward on their own, if necessary, with the president’s $1.9 trillion plan through a process known which would allow it to bypass any Republican filibuster with a mere majority vote.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, filed a joint budget resolution to begin the process, with plans for votes in the Senate by week’s end.“The smartest thing we can do is act big, according to Treasury Secretary Yellen,” Mr. Schumer said. “That is what the Senate is going to do: Act big.”
Schumer said he welcomed Republican input on the package, but warned against Ms. Collins’s approach.“The only thing we cannot accept is a package that is too small or too narrow to pull our country out of this emergency,” Schumer said.