WASHINGTON—A group of 10 Republican senators asked President
to work with them on a bipartisan coronavirus relief effort in a letter Sunday, as Democrats prepared to move forward on a $1.9 trillion package without GOP support.
In their letter, the Republican senators asked to meet with Mr. Biden to present details of their proposal, whose overall cost they didn’t state, and said they were coming forward in response to his appeal for bipartisanship.
“We recognize your calls for unity and want to work in good faith with your administration to meet the health, economic, and societal challenges of the Covid crisis,” the Republican senators wrote.
The letter outlines a few components of the Republican proposal, including $160 billion for vaccine distribution, testing, tracing and personal protective equipment, $4 billion to bolster behavioral health and substance abuse services, extending enhanced federal unemployment insurance and small business relief. The Republican senators also said they supported a “more targeted” round of direct checks “for those families who need assistance the most” but didn’t specify the size of the check.
Mr. Biden’s $1.9 trillion plan provides a $1,400 check to many Americans; increases and extends federal unemployment support and offers funds for vaccine distribution and schools. It also includes provisions opposed by many Republicans, such as an increase in the minimum wage to $15 per hour and funding for state and local governments.
The Republican senators who signed the letter represent more centrist members of the party: Sens.
Shelley Moore Capito
of West Virginia,
of North Carolina and
of South Dakota.
Republicans have balked at the $1.9 trillion price tag of Mr. Biden’s proposal. In response, Democrats are gearing up to move forward with the bigger package of coronavirus relief, using a legislative process that would bypass the need for Republican support.
Democratic leaders have said they plan to begin the process known as reconciliation as soon this week, setting up an avenue they could use to pass legislation with a simple majority in both chambers. That would mean they could pass a coronavirus relief package with just Democratic votes, if all 50 Senate Democrats stick together, and Vice President Harris casts a tiebreaking vote.
The first step is to pass a budget resolution, which could be introduced as early as Monday, according to aides, setting up votes in both chambers later in the week.
Republicans have said the $1.9 trillion package isn’t needed right now, with Congress late last year having passed $900 billion in relief. Democrats, including Mr. Biden, have said the last package was a down payment on a bigger stimulus needed now to meet the health and economic demands of the crisis.
Democratic leaders said last week they have not ruled out a bipartisan effort, but are commencing the lengthy, multistep reconciliation process to preserve that option. Many Democrats view the expiration of unemployment benefits in mid-March as the deadline to pass the next aid package.
“We have to be ready,” House Speaker
(D., Calif.) told reporters last week. “We want it to be bipartisan always, but we can’t surrender if they’re not going to be doing that,” she said of Republicans.
Even so Democrats will have to keep their own ranks aligned. They can afford no defections in the evenly-split Senate and no more than four in the narrowly divided House on legislation if Republicans remain unified in opposition.
Write to Kristina Peterson at email@example.com
Corrections & Amplifications
A headline and summary in an earlier version of this article misstated the amount of President Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan.
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