White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday that President Biden’s sit-down with a group of Republican senators on coronavirus relief legislation would be a “good faith” meeting of minds, despite the GOP’s rejection of several of the administration’s key proposals.
Biden is set to meet with a group of 10 Republicans senators led by Susan Collins of Maine later Monday afternoon. The GOP senators requested the meeting Sunday, and their offer was quickly accepted by the White House.
Democratic and Republican lawmakers are currently at loggerheads over the size of a new COVID-19 relief package. The Biden administration is pushing for a $1.9 trillion package, while the Republican alternative would cost around $600 billion.
One major sticking point between Republican and Democratic lawmakers is relief allocated to local and state governments, which GOP lawmakers have broadly resisted. Other disagreements include the size of relief checks sent directly to Americans, as well as Democratic attempts to raise the minimum wage as part of relief efforts.
In addition to Collins, the group meeting with Biden includes moderates such as Mitt Romney and Lisa Murkowski, along with hardliners such as Jerry Moran of Kansas and Mike Rounds of South Dakota.
“Mr. President, 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,” wrote the group of Republican senators Monday in a letter to the White House.
Psaki said Monday that while Biden was happy to meet with the Republican lawmakers there were still major disagreements between the parties when it came to relief legislation. She also dismissed reported grumblings from Democratic legislators about the meeting.
“I can promise you we’re less than two weeks in and there will be many Democrats in the Oval Office,” Psaki said.
Psaki said Monday’s meeting should be viewed as an opportunity for further dialogue, instead of any indication that Biden is willing “to make or accept an offer” or exclude any Democrats from negotiations.
“We saw this as a good faith proposal they put forward to have a discussion. The president is inviting them here in good faith and we will see where it goes from here,” said Psaki.
The White House maintains that the “size of the package needs to be commensurate to the challenges,” Psaki said.
“There’s obviously a big gap between $600 billion and $1.9 trillion — and so clearly he thinks the package size needs to be closer to what he proposed,” said Psaki, who added that Biden’s believes there is far greater risk in the relief package being too small rather than too large.
“It is important to him that he hears this group on their concerns, on their ideas, he’s always open to making this package stronger,” Psaki added.
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