Fri. Mar 5th, 2021

By LISA MASCARO, JOSH BOAK and JONATHAN LEMIRE, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) – President Joe Biden will join Senate Democrats for a virtual lunch on Tuesday afternoon to discuss their $ 1.9 trillion coronavirus rescue plan as Congress pledges a comprehensive aid package with or without Republican support Vote set to fast track.

Biden and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen will meet with the senators during a private session, urging both lawmakers to do bigger tasks to counter the epidemic and economic crisis.

Senate Chief Leader Chuck Schumer also announced the meeting, saying, Congress should take bold steps towards “America’s long-awaited return”. He established a procedural vote in the Senate for later Tuesday, beginning a lengthy budget process that would allow Democrats, who would have a slim majority, to pass Biden’s proposal if Republicans object.

The next move comes after swift action when Biden told Republican senators during a two-hour-long meeting that he was not ready to compromise on an inadequate coronavirus aid package, as he lowered the $ 618 billion proposal Had given.

No agreement was reached at night during Monday night’s meeting, Biden’s first with lawmakers at the White House. The president made it clear that he would not delay aid in the hope of winning GOP support.

White House press secretary Jane Saki said that while there were areas of agreement, “the president also reiterated his view that Congress should respond boldly and promptly,” and cited several areas that do not address the proposal of Republican senators. “

He said, “He will not slow down work on the response to this immediate crisis, and will not settle for a package that fails to meet the moment.”

White House officials have previously cited the US Chamber of Commerce as evidence of widespread support for its plan, but the country’s most prominent business group issued a letter on Tuesday urging a bipartisan agreement.

“Based on what we’ve seen the President put forward and 10 Senate Republicans put forward, there should be common ground for a bipartisan proposal that could become law,” said Neil Bradley, Executive Vice President and Chief Policy Officer , Said in an interview.

The Chamber’s letter states that using the budget process by congressional Democrats to pass an aid package along the party line could harm other parts of the Biden agenda, such as infrastructure, climate change and overcrowded immigration.

The two sides differ, with a Republican group of 10 senators focused primarily on the health care crisis and a small $ 1,000 direct aid to Americans, and the Biden Democrats have been forced to close homes, local governments and one Economy towards a more comprehensive rescue package.

The goal is to approve the COVID-19 relief by March, when additional unemployment assistance and other epidemic aid expires, testing the delivery capacity of the new administration and Congress, with political risks to all sides from failure with.

Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine called the meeting a “clear and very helpful” conversation, noting that the president also filled in some details on her proposal.

“We are all concerned about struggling families, emphasizing small businesses and a health care system,” said Collins, waving by other senators outside the White House.

Republicans are tapping into a bipartisan urge to improve the country’s vaccine distribution and urge large-scale virus testing with $ 160 billion in aid. This is similar to the one proposed by Biden. But from there, both plans fell drastically.

The GOP’s $ 1,000 direct payment will go to fewer homes than the $ 1,400 Biden, and Republicans provide only a fraction of what they want to reopen schools.

They pay nothing to the states, money that Democrats argue is just as important, with Biden’s $ 350 billion plan to hire police, fire and other workers. Gone are Democratic priorities such as the federal minimum wage being serially $ 15 per hour.

The Vari Democrats proceeded to the Capitol, reluctant to take too much time to support the GOP who may not be able to deliver materially or too little a package, which they believe would limit the scope of the nation’s health crisis and economic problems Do not address

The House and Senate Democrats issued a separate budget proposal on Monday, with a resolution process approving Biden’s package that would not rely on Republican support for passage.

The Congressional Budget Office gave a mixed economic forecast on Monday, expecting strong growth at a 4.5% annual rate, but the employment rate did not return to pre-epidemic levels for many years.

Asked if Biden showed a willingness to reduce his $ 1.9 trillion top line, Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana said, “He didn’t say that, nor did we say we were coming from the GOP plan.” Are ready for “. He said it would be too early to say if a deal could be reached.

GOP senators received an invitation to meet with Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris when lawmakers sent a letter to Biden on Sunday urging them to negotiate only Democratic votes instead of trying to ram through their relief package.

According to the draft, the cornerstone of the GOP plan is $ 160 billion for health care response – vaccine delivery, a “vast expansion” of testing, protective gear and funding for rural hospitals. It also includes $ 20 billion to reopen schools, compared to $ 170 billion in Biden’s plan. Republican paycheck protection programs offer $ 40 billion for trade aid.

Under the GOP’s proposal, the $ 1,000 direct payment would go to individuals earning up to $ 40,000 a year, or $ 80,000 for couples. The proposal would then begin phasing out subsequent benefits, with no payout for individuals earning more than $ 50,000, or $ 100,000 for couples. This is lower than Biden’s offer of $ 1,400 direct payments for some households at higher income levels of up to $ 300,000.

The meeting, though private, was Biden’s most public participation in the negotiations.

It would be important to win the support of 10 Republicans, potentially giving Biden the required vote in the 50-50 Senate where Harris is the tie-breaker. Or he could pursue it through a budget reconciliation process, which would allow the bill to pass with a 51-vote majority in the Senate, rather than the 60 votes usually required to advance the legislation.

Biden has leaned into the Senate as vice president to bring his resume of decades and parties together, but less than two weeks into his presidency he has shown frustration with the pace of negotiations as unemployed benefit Applications remain higher and higher. 19,000 deaths near 450,000 Americans.

Associated Press authors Alan Fram, Alexandra Jaffe, Darlene Superville and Amer Madhani contributed to this report.

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