A group of 10 Republican senators on Sunday called on President Joe Biden to throw his support behind their own Covid-19 relief package framework, asking the President to work with them on drafting the legislation.
In a letter sent to Biden, the lawmakers — including Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mitt Romney of Utah and Rob Portman of Ohio — told Biden they “welcome the opportunity to work with (him) in a bipartisan manner to combat the Covid-19 virus and provide continued support to families struggling during the pandemic.”
“In the spirit of bipartisanship and unity, we have developed a Covid-19 relief framework that builds on prior Covid assistance laws, all of which passed with bipartisan support,” they wrote.
The senators said their framework includes a total of $160 billion for vaccine development and distribution, testing and tracing, and treatment and supplies, including the production and deployment of personal protective equipment.
The framework also includes $4 billion to bolster behavioral health and substance abuse. It would also include a new round of direct payments for “families who need assistance the most” and extend enhanced federal unemployment benefits at the current level.
Brian Deese, the director of the White House’s National Economic Council, confirmed on CNN’s “State of the Union” later Sunday that the White House had received the letter.
“We’ve received the letter and we certainly will be reviewing it over the course of the day,” Deese said. “What I will say is that the provisions of the President’s plan, the American Rescue plan, were calibrated to the economic crisis that we face.”
The President, he added, is “uncompromising when it comes to the speed we need to act at to address this crisis.”
The proposal comes as Biden has suggested he’s open to passing major portions of his $1.9 trillion Covid relief proposal through a procedural tactic known as reconciliation if Republicans refuse to move on the measure. The maneuver would mean the package would just need a simple Senate majority of 51 votes, rather than 60.
“We request the opportunity to meet with you to discuss our proposal in greater detail and how we can work together to meet the needs of the American people during this persistent pandemic,” the group wrote to Biden, adding: “We recognize your calls for unity and want to work in good faith with your Administration to meet the health, economic, and societal challenges of the Covid crisis.”
The letter’s other signatories are GOP Sens. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Todd Young of Indiana, Jerry Moran of Kansas, Mike Rounds of South Dakota and Thom Tillis of North Carolina.
Biden’s proposed package, meanwhile, expands on many of the proposals in Congress’ $3 trillion coronavirus relief bill from March and the $900 billion legislation from December, which was scaled back to garner bipartisan support in the Senate.
While Biden has said he is willing to consider less than $1.9 trillion in relief, White House officials made clear they are not interested in splitting up the legislation by getting a bipartisan vote on some aspect and then passing a separate package along party lines using reconciliation.
This is a breaking story and will be updated.