President Joe Biden will meet with Republicans to discuss his intended $1.9 trillion covid relief package, following a letter by 10 Republicans and a proposed covid relief package far less expensive at around $600 billion.
Biden expressed his desire for Republican support for his covid relief package since its emergence. Still, they are unwilling to fully approve of it because they believe it is too costly. They also feel that it is too early to pass another covid relief package yet, as the U.S. government just passed one in December that provided $900 billion in assistance. Furthermore, the funding allocated last March, issued at the beginning of the pandemic, has still not yet been entirely used up.
“Billions of dollars remain unspent from the previous COVID relief packages. Just last month, Congress provided $900 billion in additional resources, and communities are only now receiving much of that assistance. Some of the spending appropriated through the CARES Act, passed last March, has yet to be exhausted. The proposal we have outlined is mindful of these past efforts, while also acknowledging the priorities that need additional support right now,” the Republicans wrote in their letter to Biden.
The proposed alternative package that the Republicans are suggesting would provide $1,000 direct payments, rather than the $1,400 that Biden wants. It would also provide schools with drastically less at $20 billion, rather than Biden’s $170 billion.
Republicans agreed with Biden’s spending on vaccine development and distribution, testing and tracing, treatment and supplies, as well as the production and deployment of personal protective equipment. They are willing to spend $160 billion on these and front line workers, just like Biden. They also agree with his proposed $4 billion spendings on behavioral health and substance abuse services.
Democrats have been unwilling to break up the package and pass it piece by piece as many Republicans would like. They are willing to try to pass Biden’s covid relief plan by reconciliation without any Republican support; due to their contention that further help to tackle the pandemic is urgently needed.
“With the virus posing a grave threat to the country, and economic conditions grim for so many, the need for action is urgent, and the scale of what must be done is large,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement.
A bipartisan agreement would get the package approved quicker rather than the process of reconciliation. The Republicans’ letter to Biden mentions how in 2020, the House and Senate reached bipartisan agreements five times regarding covid spending. It concluded by saying: “With your support, we believe Congress can once again craft a relief package that will provide meaningful, effective assistance to the American people and set us on a path to recovery. 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.”
Biden and his supporters point out that many expert economists have stressed that it will be better to spend too much unnecessarily rather than not spending enough. “As leading economists have said, the danger now is not in doing too much: it is in doing too little. Americans of both parties are looking to their leaders to meet the moment,” Psaki said in her press statement.