Saturday, October 16

White House open to reducing stimulus checks

Washington (CNN) — US President Joe Biden is open to some negotiations over his $ 1.9 trillion COVID-19 aid package, a senior administration official told CNN, but the $ 600 billion counterproposal announced by some Republican senators on Sunday “is not going to meet the needs.”

The White House is specifically open to considering reducing stimulus checks for families making more than $ 150,000 a year, the official said, but the administration is not considering cutting months of access to unemployment insurance or money for schools.

The official told CNN that if the Republican counterproposal moved forward, lawmakers would have to negotiate again in two months, which could happen in an even harsher political landscape. The official said that while the Biden administration is open to its aid package being less than $ 1.9 trillion, they are not considering a $ 600 billion plan.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement Sunday night that Biden invited the Republican senators behind the counterproposal to the White House “for a full exchange of views.”

“With the serious threat posed by the virus to the country and gloomy economic conditions for many, the need for action is urgent and the scale of what must be done is great,” he said.

The 10 senators said in a joint statement Sunday night that they accepted the president’s invitation to the White House on Monday afternoon “to discuss the way forward for the sixth bipartisan covid-19 aid package.”

The Republican aid package represents the most significant response yet to the planned White House package, although costing more than a trillion dollars less than the Democratic plan, the Republican proposal will likely face opposition from Democrats in Congress. .

The counterproposal includes a total of US $ 160 billion for vaccine development and distribution, testing and tracking, and treatment and supplies, including the production and deployment of personal protective equipment. It also includes a new round of direct payments for “families who need assistance most,” extends improved federal unemployment benefits to the current level, and provides $ 4 billion to bolster behavioral health and substance abuse.

But Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told the New York Daily News on Sunday that the Republican proposal is insufficient, and that Republicans should “negotiate with us, not make a take it or leave it.”

And Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders said Sunday that he believes there are enough Democratic votes to pass Biden’s Covid-19 relief package through a process known as reconciliation, which requires only a simple majority.

Biden has said he is not against reconciliation, but the official said Sunday that the White House wants to “make room for Republicans, but they are not going to fool them.”

The relief package deliberations are early proof of Biden’s stated commitment to partisan bargaining during his term as president. In his inaugural address earlier this month, the president called for bipartisanship and unity.

As of Sunday night, no decisions had been made on the next steps to meet with either side, though Psaki noted in her statement that Biden spoke with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Schumer about the legislation. .

The president, he said, “is grateful that Congress is prepared to begin acting on the American Rescue Plan in just his second full week in office.”

CNN’s Manu Raju, Paul LeBlanc, Dana Bash, Lauren Fox, Devan Cole, and Daniella Diaz contributed to this report.

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