GOP Senators Offer Alternative Stimulus Plan As Democrats Prepare To Pass $1.9 Trillion Rescue Bill Without Them

Topline

With Democrats poised to move forward on elements of President Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus plan as soon as this week with a simple majority of Democratic votes, a group of ten Senate Republicans is requesting a meeting with Biden to discuss a compromise proposal that they say can pass Congress with bipartisan support. 

Key Facts

In a letter to Biden dated Sunday, Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and seven more lawmakers said that their “alternative” relief plan will include $160 billion for vaccines and public health measures along with another round of more targeted stimulus checks, more aid for small businesses, and more funding for schools. 

Brian Deese, Biden’s top economic advisor, told CNN Sunday that the administration is reviewing the letter and reiterated that the White House is “open to input from anywhere we can find a constructive idea,” but added that Biden is “uncompromising” when it comes to the urgency of passing new relief legislation quickly. 

The push for an alternative proposal reflects concerns among some lawmakers, including the bipartisan group that helped craft the $900 billion package that passed in December, that Biden’s plan is too expensive and that certain provisions—especially the next round of stimulus checks—should be more narrowly targeted to keep costs down. 

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), one of the letter’s signatories, said during a CNN interview Sunday that “at a time of unprecedented deficits and debt … we need to be sure that this is targeted.” 

Eligibility for the first two rounds of direct payments began to phase out at $75,000 for individuals and $150,000 for couples filing jointly—Portman said Sunday that the senators believe the income cap on the next round should be $50,000 for individuals and $100,000 for families, and Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) said the checks will be in the amount of $1,000, Bloomberg’s Erik Wasson reported.

Deese has said the administration is open to more narrowly targeted stimulus checks, but said Sunday that “we need to look at how this plan is targeted overall.” 

Big Number

$600 billion. That’s the estimated price tag for the ten senators’ compromise plan, Cassidy told FOX News Sunday—about a third of the cost of Biden’s plan. 

Crucial Quote

“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 wrote. “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.”

What To Watch For 

Democrats are preparing to push ahead on Biden’s ambitious relief proposals this week through a special process called budget reconciliation, which would only require a simple majority of votes in the Senate to pass. Since the Senate is now split 50-50 (with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the deciding vote), Democrats could pass stimulus legislation without any support from Republicans. Biden has repeatedly said he would prefer the bill pass under normal rules (with at least 60 senators voting in favor), but he indicated last week that he would be willing to use reconciliation if overtures to Republicans fail. Some Republicans have warned that passing relief legislation over their objections would endanger any hope of further bipartisan cooperation under the Biden administration. 

Further Reading

More Than 50 House Lawmakers Urge Biden To Include Recurring Stimulus Checks In New Covid-19 Relief Bill (Forbes)

Schumer Says Democrats Will Move Forward On Stimulus With Or Without Republicans—And It Could Be As Soon As Next Week (Forbes)

Bernie Sanders Warns Republicans ‘Will Win’ In 2022 Midterms If Democrats Don’t Act Aggressively On Stimulus Now (Forbes)

Biden’s Path To $1.9 Trillion Stimulus Still Unclear As GOP Resists Spending (Forbes)

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