Republicans are willing to support a stimulus package that costs more than the $618 billion package they proposed on Feb. 1, but the White House is not willing to come down from $1.9 trillion, Republican senators said Tuesday.
“We are looking at amendments but they pretty much stalled. The administration has not indicated a willingness to come down from its $1.9 trillion figure and that’s a major obstacle,” Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) told reporters at the U.S. Capitol in Washington.
“We have indicated a willingness to come up from our $618 billion, but unfortunately the White House seems wedded to a figure that really can’t be justified given the hundreds of billions of dollars that are still in the pipeline from the December bill.”
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) told reporters separately that “there’s been very little effort on the part of the White House to meet with us and to see if we can find a middle ground, a common ground of some kind.”
Collins and Romney are part of a group of 10 Republicans who offered a counterproposal that comes in around a third of the package Democrats are pushing. Republicans want to cut out a federal minimum wage hike, a lower round of direct payments, and an unemployment supplement that would last until June, as opposed to September.
Democrats cleared the way for partisan approval of the package earlier this month, using a budget process that enables them to pass it without any Republican support.
Democrats control both chambers of Congress. To pass an amendment in the upper chamber, Republicans would need at least one Democrat senator to side with them.
Republicans are currently targeting a lower cap on who will be eligible for the next round of stimulus checks, Collins said.
President Joe Biden is doing well with outreach to Republicans but apparently productive talks keep getting countermanded by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), she added.
Biden told reporters in the White House on Tuesday that he believes his COVID-19 package will pass Congress, but “it’s not going to pass by a lot.”
Schumer told reporters on Capitol Hill that the package will be “a robust, strong bill—just as we asked for, not exactly the same, but very close to the bill that President Biden proposed.” He blamed Republicans for the lack of bipartisanship.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in a separate briefing that Democrats “have continued to try to move ahead with a partisan COVID package.”
“You know the history, but it’s worth recounting that every COVID package we passed last year there was almost no opposition to those bills,” he added. “And I was hoping the new administration, particularly given the president, particularly with the president discussing so frequently being a moderate, would choose to take a different path. Particularly when you look at the numbers, a 50/50 Senate, a narrow majority in the House, I would think looking at that, your conclusion would be maybe we ought to start on a bipartisan basis. But alas that is not the case.”
Several Democrats, meanwhile, are also attempting to alter Biden’s proposal.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said Monday that he wants to change the proposed minimum wage hike. Biden wants it raised to $15 an hour; Manchin would like it raised, but only to $11 an hour.
“There’ll be an opportunity for Sen. Manchin and others to put forward ideas and proposals, and we’ll see where that process lands,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters during a briefing Tuesday.
“But he proposed the $15 increase for a reason and he stands by it.”