Republican senators agree to meet with Biden to talk COVID-19 relief

Republican senators agree to meet with Biden to talk COVID-19 relief

But Biden's COVID-19 agenda could also be slowed by partisan politics as the Senate moves toward a February 9 impeachment trial of former Republican President Donald Trump, who faces a charge that he incited insurrection with a fiery speech to supporters just before hundreds of them stormed the Capitol on January 6.

Susan Collins, one of the Republicans attending, said the discussion was "frank and useful" but yielded no breakthroughs.

Ten Republican senators on Sunday proposed spending about one-third of what President Joe Biden is seeking in coronavirus aid and urged him to negotiate rather than try to ram through his $1.9 trillion package exclusively on Democratic votes.

Now, the White House has been clear to say that this is really an exchange of ideas, that there's not going to be any negotiation for an offer that is at all taken into account or one that is accepted by President Trump - I mean, President Biden with the changes here. Rejecting out of hand a Republican effort at a bipartisan compromise will not be without costs.

The overture from the coalition of 10 GOP senators, mostly centrists, was an attempt to show that at least some in the Republican ranks want to work with Biden's new administration, rather than simply operating as the opposition in the minority in Congress.

Ten Republican votes, combined with the backing of 50 Democrats and independents, would be enough to move bipartisan legislation quickly through the Senate.

Sen. Romney realizes a bi-partisan agreement is not guaranteed as Democrats control the White House, Senate and House of Representatives.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has said his chamber would begin work on it as early as this week.

But Cedric Richmond, a senior Biden adviser, said the president "is very willing to meet with anyone to advance the agenda".

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The proposal from the 10 Senate Republicans would provide a similar infusion of funding to what Biden has proposed to pay for more COVID-19 testing and vaccinations. Congress enacted $4 trillion in Covid-19 relief previous year.

Nine of the Republicans met with Mr. Biden for two hours on Monday.

The GOP senators' proposal sets aside $220 billion in direct stimulus payments, $160 billion in pandemic response including $20 billion in a national vaccine program, $132 billion in unemployment insurance, $50 billion for small businesses, and $20 billion for schools.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is expected to meet with Senate Democrats on the relief measure on Tuesday, the department said.

In their letter to Biden, the GOP senators requested a meeting with President Biden to further discuss the stimulus package. It does not include $350 billion in aid to state and local governments, or Biden's call for a $15-an-hour federal minimum wage. The checks would go to individuals earning $50,000 or less and couples earning $100,000 or less.

The 10 Republicans, who also include Shelley Moore Capito, Todd Young, Jerry Moran, Mike Rounds and Thom Tillis, endorsed keeping extra federal unemployment aid amid the pandemic at $300 a week versus Biden's proposed $400 a week. "The real question we have to focus on is: What is the cost of not acting now?" The US, which has the world's highest death toll from Covid-19, has seen more than 26 million cases and over 438,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

He is meeting with the Republican senators who laid out a plan that is only a third of the price, less than a third of the price of his $1.9 trillion plan. They are giving people something, not taking something away and that's emboldened members to act swiftly and decisively and not give in to talk that they have to unify the country by bringing Republicans onboard with a plan.

With slim majorities for Democrats in both the House and Senate, moving legislation without GOP votes requires using a budgetary process called reconciliation.

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