GOP senators introduce a bill cutting the amount of proposed COVID relief to $618 billion.
Senate Republicans introduced a $618 billion COVID relief proposal early Monday to counter the $1.9 trillion plan proposed by President Joe Biden, but the GOP's counterproposal is missing several key components of the president's plan. Their absence is likely to draw resistance to the bill from Democratic lawmakers.
The plan was released by 10 Republican senators: Susan Collins (ME), Lisa Murkowski (AK), Shelley Moore Capito (WV), Bill Cassidy (LA), Mike Rounds (SD), Thom Tillis (NC), Mitt Romney (UT), Rob Portman (OH), Jerry Moran (KS), and Todd Young (IN).
The number is consequential in that if a bipartisan agreement is reached on a relief plan, votes in favor cast by 10 GOP senators would give Democrats the necessary majority to bypass a GOP filibuster and push it through.
"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 senators wrote in a letter to Biden. "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. 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."
Biden agreed to meet with the senators Monday evening.
The GOP proposal includes an extension of $300-a-week unemployment payments, as well as $160 billion to go toward COVID testing, vaccine development and distribution, and personal protective equipment for medical personnel. It would also provide $40 billion to the Paycheck Protection Program and $4 billion for behavioral health services, including substance abuse recovery.
But the plan would extend unemployment benefit payments only until the end of June, while Biden proposed extending them until September.
While it does propose direct payments of $1,000 to some Americans, that figure is less than the $1,400 Biden's plan includes. The GOP plan would send relief checks to those making up to $50,000 a year for individuals and $100,000 for joint tax filers, while Biden's plan contains a higher income threshold for checks, capping them at $75,000 a year for individual filers and $150,000 for joint filers.
According to CNN, the GOP's plan would start checks at $1,000 but decrease their amount relative to the recipients' incomes.
According to Politico, the Republican counterproposal also includes no funding for state or local governments, which is bound to be a major sticking point for Democrats.
"If the reports are true, it doesn't have any state and local money in it. Look at that, just as one thing," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told the New York Daily News Sunday.
He added, "We cannot do the mistake of 2009 where they whittled down the program so that the amount of relief was so small that the recession lasted four or five years."
While Biden has agreed to meet with the 10 Senate Republicans to discuss their counteroffer, the president has already expressed willingness to push through parts of the original $1.9 trillion relief plan using the budget reconciliation process if COVID relief is stonewalled by Republicans.
"Our Republican colleagues, most of them have been very negative, either don't want to do anything, or want to do something minimal," Schumer said. "President Biden believes, and I agree with him, we need a bold, strong action. Now, we'd like to do that with the Republicans, but if we can't, we'll have to go forward on our own using this process, reconciliation."
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.