Biden and Collins Sound Off on the Bipartisan Oval Office Meeting

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Posted: Feb 01, 2021 10:20 PM
Biden and Collins Sound Off on the Bipartisan Oval Office Meeting

Source: AP Photo/Evan Vucci

President Joe Biden on Monday met with a handful of Republican senators who proposed a counteroffer to his COVID relief plan, which the administration has dubbed the "American Rescue Plan." The goal was negotiate and hammer out the details of another package. How the negotiations went depends on who is asked.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), the GOP coalition leader, said she felt good about the negotiations. 

"We outlined for the president the provisions that we have proposed as part of an approximately $600 billion package. He explained in more depth what areas were not flushed out as much in the $1.9 trillion package and it was a very good exchange of views," Collins told reporters. "I wouldn't say we came together on a package tonight. No one expected that in a two-hour meeting but what we did agree to do is to follow up and talk further at the staff level, amongst ourselves and with the president and vice president about how we can continue to work together on this very important issue."

Collins said she's hopeful that another bipartisan package can be voted on and passed in Congress since it's been done five times over the last year. Her hope is a sixth relief package will be passed soon.

The White House's view on the meeting – and the direction of the relief package – is very different than Collins' take. It sounds as though Biden was not persuaded to deviate from his plan.

Below is a statement Press Secretary Jen Psaki released following the visit:

The President and Vice President had a substantive and productive discussion with Republican senators this evening at the White House. The group shared a desire to get help to the American people, who are suffering through the worst health and economic crisis in a generation.

While there are areas of agreement, the President also reiterated his view that Congress must respond boldly and urgently, and noted many areas which the Republican senators' proposal does not address. He reiterated that while he is hopeful that the Rescue Plan can pass with bipartisan support, a reconciliation package is a path to achieve that end. The President also made clear that the American Rescue Plan was carefully designed to meet the stakes of this moment, and any changes in it cannot leave the nation short of its pressing needs.

The President expressed his hope that the group could continue to discuss ways to strengthen the American Rescue Plan as it moves forward, and find areas of common ground – including work on small business support and nutrition programs. He reiterated, however, that he will not slow down work on this urgent crisis response, and will not settle for a package that fails to meet the moment.

The biggest difference between the two plans is direct cash payments. The White House supports $1,400 per person direct cash payments across the board. The coalition, however, says they believe their plan provides a "more targeted" approach for the families more in need. The the thresholds for receiving assistance under the GOP plan would be lowered to individuals making $50,000 or $100,000 for couples and checks would be $1,000 per person,

While Biden and the GOP senators were meeting, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announced their joint budget resolution package, which would be a way to enact the American Rescue Act, President Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID relief plan. If both chambers pass an identical bill, Biden doesn't have to sign it into law. This is the first step in bypassing Republicans and passing the relief bill on a strictly partisan basis.

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