Biden to host GOP senators for COVID relief talks at the White House

President Joe Biden will meet Monday with GOP senators to discuss their counter proposal for a COVID relief package.

During a call with Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, on Sunday, Biden invited the Maine Republican and the group’s nine other members to join him at the White House “for a full exchange of views,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement.

In addition to Collins, the Republican group includes Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La.; Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va.; Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan.; Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska; Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio; Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah; Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., Sen. Michael Rounds, R-S.D.; and Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind.

The senators asked for a meeting in a letter to Biden Sunday that emphasized possible areas of agreement.

The senators did not specify how close they are willing to get to the $1.9 trillion price tag on the president’s plan. Instead, they outlined their spending priorities which include $160 billion on vaccines, testing, treatment and personal protective equipment.

“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,” the senators wrote.

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U.S. President Joe Biden, in a meeting Jan. 29. 2021 with Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, stressed the need for a COVID-19 relief package.
U.S. President Joe Biden, in a meeting Jan. 29. 2021 with Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, stressed the need for a COVID-19 relief package.

They backed new funding for mental health services, extending enhanced unemployment benefits and expanding food assistance. While the group also supports an additional round of direct payments to families, the letter implies the senators want a more targeted approached than in the current proposal.

Psaki reiterated the administration’s position that Congress must act quickly and should err on the side of providing too much, rather than too little, assistance.

She began her statement by noting Biden also spoke Sunday with the top Democratic leaders in Congress about quickly moving a plan.

Biden would prefer to get Republican support for legislation, but Democrats are preparing to push forward on their own, if necessary.

“With the virus posing a grave threat to the country, and economic conditions grim for so many, the need for action is urgent,” Psaki said, “and the scale of what must be done is large.”

– Maureen Groppe

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Politics live updates: Biden hosts GOP senators for COVID relief talks

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