President Joe Biden’s administration and Democrats in Congress have vowed to press forward with the president’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, even if they do so without any Republican support.
Biden has argued that the relief package is not only popular among a majority of Americans but is also necessary to combat the economic toll of lockdown measures.
Though Biden campaigned on a message of unity and bipartisanship, his administration rejected a Republican pitch to split the plan into smaller pieces and has said that it must move quickly to pass the package over objections to its size.
“The very health of our nation is at stake,” Biden said on Jan. 14 when he first introduced his recovery plan.
Biden’s administration has also argued that the package is necessary to beat the pandemic, touting its provisions for vaccine distribution, the reopening of schools and direct relief to American families and small businesses.
“We’ve got a lot to do, and the first thing we’ve got to do is get this COVID package passed,” Biden said on Thursday while discussing the plan.
But as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer reportedly lay the foundations to pass Biden’s bill, some Republicans hope that Biden will change course and revert to his earlier calls for a bipartisan plan.
“The president is sincere in his commitment to bipartisanship,” Maine Sen. Susan Collins told Politico. “That’s the way he always operated when he was a senator. And from my conversations with him since the election, it seems clear to me that he wants to continue to operate that way.”
Other Republicans have also cautioned Biden against abandoning his calls for bipartisanship.
“I think it would be wise for the new administration to work to try to get a bipartisan proposal,” Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska told reporters on Wednesday. “I think that speaks exactly to President Biden’s comments a week ago.”
“He spoke to unity and working together. Well, we’re giving an opportunity to come together on important and timely legislation,” she added.
Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso was more pointed, telling The Associated Press that Biden should practice what he preached in his inaugural address.
“If there’s ever been a mandate to move to the middle, it’s this,” he said. “It’s not let’s just go off the cliff.”
Collins was one of 16 senators who took part in a weekend call with Biden outlining his relief package. Also on the call were Reps. Tom Reed and Josh Gottheimer, the Republican and Democratic co-chaira of the powerful Problem Solvers Caucus.
“I’m getting a good-faith sense that the administration is trying to find common ground,” Reed said Wednesday.
“[We want to] work with them and find common ground,” he said, adding that smaller pieces of the package like vaccine aid and cash relief would likely sail through Congress with bipartisan support.
But despite Republican support for a smaller package, the administration reiterated that it would press forward with what it had initially proposed.
“We’re open for business and open to hear from members of Congress on that,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said, adding that “we’re not going to do this in a piecemeal way or break apart a big package that’s meant to address the crisis we’re facing.”
Her comments were echoed by Biden himself on Friday.
“The risk is not doing too much, but not doing enough,” he said during a meeting in the Oval Office.
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