Senate Republicans say their efforts to slash COVID relief were 'in good faith'


And they are demanding similar cuts to the infrastructure package now.

The Senate Republicans who tried to slash President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package by more than two-thirds are very upset that he called them out for intransigence.

In Wednesday remarks about his $2.25 trillion American Jobs Plan, Biden noted that he had been willing to compromise on the American Rescue Plan earlier this year, but that Republicans refused to come close to what was needed.

Noting a Feb. 1 meeting with 10 Republicans who had proposed a smaller alternative to his $1.9 trillion plan, Biden lamented, "They started off at $600 billion, and that was it."

"I would've been prepared to compromise, but they didn't," Biden recalled. "They didn't move an inch. Not an inch."

In a joint statement on Wednesday, those 10 Republicans suggested that this was "false" because they had acted "in good faith" and later offered to increase their $618 billion proposal — all the way to $650 billion.

"Our package included the core COVID relief elements of the Biden administration's plan, such as providing an identical amount—$160 billion—to support vaccines and testing," they wrote. "The administration roundly dismissed our effort as wholly inadequate in order to justify its go-it-alone strategy."

The less-than-one-third-of-a-loaf proposal had been offered by Sens. Susan Collins (ME), Bill Cassidy (LA), Shelley Moore Capito (WV), Jerry Moran (KS), Lisa Murkowski (AK), Rob Portman (OH) Mitt Romney (UT), Mike Rounds (SD), Thom Tillis (NC), and Todd Young (IN).

Both their $618 billion and $650 billion offers excluded several key components of Biden's plan, including an average 2021 tax cut for Americans, $350 billion in direct aid to cash-strapped states and localities, and much of the funding to allow schools to more safely return to in-person instruction.

On Sunday, Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt, a high-ranking member of Republican leadership, again suggested "compromise" with much less funding, calling on Biden to replace his $2.25 trillion infrastructure package with a $615 billion one.

Blunt's proposal would only include what he considers traditional physical infrastructure, like roads and bridges, and omit funding for human infrastructure, such as child care.

The American public — including most Republicans — strongly prefer Biden's approach. A poll released Tuesday by Data for Progress and the pro-infrastructure group Invest in America found 73% support for the American Jobs Plan — including 57% Republican support — among likely voters. The survey also found 74% support for "care economy" investments.

Previous polling showed similarly high levels of support, including from GOP voters, for the American Rescue Plan — though every single congressional Republican opposed it.

Biden indicated on Wednesday that he was open to compromise on infrastructure — as long as it's serious and doesn't raise taxes on those making under $400,000 a year.

"I'm prepared to work. I really am," he said. "But to automatically say that the only thing that's infrastructure is a highway, a bridge, or whatever — that's just not rational. It really isn't."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.