February 28, 2021

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Third stimulus check update: Republicans offer a compromise while Biden pushes for quick approval. Here’s the – NJ.com

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The Senate Republicans most likely to work with President Joe Biden on a new coronavirus stimulus bill said Sunday they would support a bill with less than one-third of the $1.9 trillion he proposed for new direct payments of $1,400, aid to state and local governments, and producing and distributing vaccines.

The GOP proposal, to be released Monday, would come out at around $600 billion, U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., said on “Fox News Sunday.”

While welcoming GOP willingness to negotiate, National Economic Council Director Brian Deese said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union” that the $1.9 trillion amount was “calibrated to the economic crisis that we face.”

“What we really need to focus on now is: What do we need to get this economy back on track and what are the resources necessary to do so?” he said.

The Republican proposal came out just days in advance of planned Democratic votes designed to prevent a GOP filibuster and allow Congress to pass the Biden plan by majority vote.

“The question is not bipartisanship,” incoming Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said on ABC’s “This Week.”

“The question is addressing the unprecedented crisis that we face right now. If Republicans want to work with us, they have better ideas on how to address those crises, that’s great. But, to be honest with you, I have not yet heard that,” Sanders said.

The proposed Republican compromise backed Biden’s proposals for more money for vaccine distribution and help for small businesses, while apparently excluding the $350 billion in state and local aid, a top Democratic priority.

The Senate Republicans signing a letter to Biden and asking to meet with him included Cassidy, Susan Collins of Maine, Mitt Romney of Utah, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, all of whom worked with congressional Democrats including N.J. Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-5th Dist., on a compromise coronavirus spending bill last December that included $600 direct payments.

Their efforts jump-started negotiations that led to congressional approval of a $900 billion stimulus package in the waning days of the 116th Congress.

“The president’s team did not reach out to anybody in our group, either Democrat or Republican, when they fashioned their proposal,” Cassidy said on Fox. “So if you want unity, if you want bipartisanship, you ought to start with a group that’s shown it’s willing to work together for a common solution. They did not.”

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One area of compromise could be the next round of stimulus checks. Cassidy said the Republicans proposed $1,000 payments targeted to lower-income households rather than the $1,400 under the current formula that would send checks to some families earning more than $400,000.

“The direct checks are designed to get cash into the pockets of families who really need it,” Deese said on NBC’s “Meet the Press. “We’re certainly open to making elements of this package more effective in achieving that goal.”

Another senator who signed the letter, Rob Portman of Ohio objected to efforts this week by Democrats in both houses of Congress to pass a budget resolution that would let them avoid a Senate filibuster and pass the COVID-19 package by majority vote under a process known as reconciliation.

“What the Democrats are talking about doing is, one, using it right off the bat, without trying to come up with a bipartisan compromise,” he said on CNN.

But Portman voted for two budget resolutions in 2017 that prevented Senate Democrats from filibustering their efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act(which failed by one vote), and that allowed them to pass their tax law that capped the federal deduction for state and local taxes.

Democrats also learned a lesson from President Barack Obama’s administration, when Biden was vice president. A too-small stimulus package, with the cost held down to attract Republican support, was blamed for a tepid recovery after the Great Recession.

Then Democrats spent months in a futile attempt to win GOP support for Obama’s health care law, even adopting several amendments proposed by congressional Republicans.

Jonathan D. Salant may be reached at jsalant@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @JDSalant.

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