GOP senators ask Biden for bipartisan negotiations on COVID-19 relief package


A group of Republican senators on Sunday sent a letter to President Biden suggesting they meet as part of his call for “unity” to negotiate the administration’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package.

​”​In the spirit of bipartisanship and unity, we have developed a COVID-19 relief framework that builds on prior COVID assistance laws, all of which passed with bipartisan support​,” the lawmakers, including Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Mitt Romney of Utah, wrote​ in the missive.

“Our proposal reflects many of your stated priorities, and with your support, we believe that this plan could be approved quickly by Congress with bipartisan support​,” the letter continued. 

“​We request the opportunity to meet with you to discuss our proposal in greater detail and how we can work together to meet the needs of the American people during this persistent pandemic​,” they said. ​​

The letter did not state an estimated price tag for their proposals, but the senators said ​it includes $160 billion to boost health care providers dealing with the pandemic and working to get millions of doses of the coronavirus vaccine into the arms of Americans.

It also lists $4 billion to bolster behavioral health and substance abuse services.

“​Addressing this public health crisis has required robust and rapid support for vaccine development and distribution, testing and tracing, treatment and supplies, including the production and deployment of personal protective equipment​,” the letter said, adding that building capacity in those areas is “crucial to overcoming the pandemic.”

The senators said they plan to release more details of their proposal on Monday, but confirmed that it contains economic relief for those families struggling financially and provides more targeted assistance than Biden’s plan.

It also proposed additional payments for families most in need, including for their dependent children and adults.

They also want more resources dedicated to small businesses and their employees through the Paycheck Protection Program and help for schools to get children back in the classroom.

“​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 combating the urgent COVID-19 pandemic.

The Democrats control the Senate, which is split 50-50, because of Vice President Kamala Harris’ tie breaking vote. 

So they could afford no defections from Democrats to push Biden’s COVID-19 plan through. 

But other Democrats – including Sen. Bernie Sanders – are weighing using a process known as reconciliation that allows for the passage of some spending items with a simple majority instead of the 60-vote threshold in the filibuster.

Republicans used reconciliation to call for a vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act and pass former President Trump’s 2017 tax cuts. 

Along with Collins and Romney, the letter was signed by Senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Rob Portman of Ohio, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Todd Young of Indiana, Jerry Moran of Kansas, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, and Mike Rounds of South Dakota.

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