Senator Mitt Romney, a Republican from Utah, listens during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Iran-US relations on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, the United States, on Wednesday, October 16, 2019.
Al Drago | Bloomberg | Getty Images
WASHINGTON – A group of 10 Republican Senators urged President Joe Biden to consider a smaller, alternative proposal for Covid-19 aid as his administration works to pass a $ 1.9 trillion package, to deal with the economic consequences caused by the pandemic.
In a letter to Biden on Sunday, Sens. Susan Collins from Maine, Mitt Romney from Utah, Rob Portman from Ohio, Lisa Murkowski from Alaska and five other lawmakers said they would announce their legislative proposals on Monday.
“We recognize your demands for unity and would like to work in good faith with your administration to meet the health, economic and social challenges of the Covid crisis,” wrote the senators.
“We believe that with your support, Congress can once again work out a relief package that will provide meaningful and effective relief to the American people and get us on the road to recovery,” the group wrote, asking to meet with Biden on the subject to discuss the proposed law in detail.
Republican senators said their version of Covid’s aid package is “providing more targeted aid” to Americans in greatest need. The proposed legislation provides a total of $ 160 billion for vaccine development and distribution, testing and tracking, treatment, and other vital supplies.
The senators set the following details of their plan:
- An additional round of economic impact payments for families in need of help most, including their dependent children and adults.
- Extends the federal government’s improved unemployment benefits to the current level.
- Funds food aid entirely to help families in trouble.
- Additional resources to support small businesses and their employees through the Paycheck Protection Program and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program.
- Funds funds for the safe opening of schools and for childcare.
- Dedicated $ 4 billion to strengthen behavioral health and substance abuse services.
On Sunday, Portman told CNN’s State of the Union that the proposal would be a leaner version of what was put forward by the Biden administration.
“It would be less than $ 1.9 [trillion] Because a lot of what the government has planned has nothing to do with Covid-19, “Portman said.” As an example of the direct payments, we think they should be much more targeted, “he added.
Brian Deese, director of the National Economic Council, told MSNBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday that the White House had received the letter and was open to discussing the proposed legislation.
“The president has said repeatedly that he is open to ideas wherever they may come to improve the approach to actually dealing with this crisis. What he is uncompromising is the need to quickly take a comprehensive approach here,” Deese said .
“We have been working with members of Congress from both parties and in both Houses for the past week or two. We will continue to do so,” he added.
Deese also told CNN’s State of the Union that the government was ready to negotiate the stimulus checks.
The Republican counter-proposal comes as the House will pass a budget resolution this week, the first step in approving the Aid Act through Reconciliation. The process would allow Senate Democrats to approve a relief effort without Republican support.
Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer from New York signaled last week that the chamber would also work to pass a budget resolution soon. He said the Senate “will begin examining a very strong Covid relief bill as early as next week.”
When asked if Senate Democrats could lead the bailout bill through the reconciliation process, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders told ABC’s “This Week” that he believed the party had the votes.
“I have a hard time imagining a Democrat, whatever state he or she comes from, who doesn’t understand the need to act aggressively now to protect the country’s working families,” Sanders said.
“Look, we’re all going to have disagreements. This is a $ 1.9 trillion bill. I have differences and concerns about this bill, but at the end of the day we are going to support the President of the United States and we will . ” what the American people overwhelmingly expect of us, “he added.
In a Twitter post on Sunday, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen reiterated the government’s call for Congress to act as soon as possible.
“The president is absolutely right: the benefits of acting now – and acting big – will far outweigh the costs in the long run,” Yellen wrote.
CNBC’s Jacob Pramuk, Tucker Higgins and Emma Newburger contributed to this report from New York.