- Republicans are citing Biden’s lack of outreach as a reason for not supporting his $1.9 trillion stimulus.
- But Biden met with 10 GOP senators weeks ago, and he made clear he would prioritize speedy relief over bipartisanship.
- The plan just passed the House Budget Committee, and Democrats plan to get it on Biden’s desk by mid-March.
- Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.
When President Joe Biden met with 10 Republican senators in the Oval Office on February 1 to discuss their counter-proposal to his stimulus plan, he made it clear that he wasn’t willing to decrease the size of the $1.9 trillion package.
But nearly four weeks after that meeting, some of those same moderate Republicans are now saying that a lack of White House outreach is a primary reason why they don’t support his package, despite having known what the president’s plans were for weeks now.
The Republican group, led by Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, spearheaded the $618 billion stimulus proposal, which was a third of the cost of the president’s. But Collins told reporters on Tuesday that while Biden seemed willing to hear the GOP’s proposal, it was Biden’s advisors, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who have made bipartisan efforts difficult.
“I’ve had conversations with people at the White House, and other members of the group have as well,” Collins told reporters. “But I think the sticking point is that the White House staff seems very wedded to the $1.9 trillion thing.”
She added that Ron Klain, Biden’s chief of staff, stood in the back of the room during the meeting and shook his head at every mention of decreasing the size of the stimulus package, confirming a Washington Post report that Klain visibly disagreed with them during that meeting.
Collins did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.
Republican Sen. John Thune of South Dakota also told reporters on Tuesday that GOP members feeling “unconsulted” is a primary reason for their lack of support for the president’s stimulus plan and said it “makes it hard for any of our members, even those that might be inclined to do so, to vote for it. To vote for anything.”
Biden not budging
Biden made his intentions for the stimulus package clear to both Republicans and Democrats, The Washington Post reported shortly after the Oval Office meeting. When it came to certain elements of the plan, like the income thresholds for stimulus checks, the president said he would be willing to compromise on the eligibility – but not the size – of the checks.
And when it came to discussions on unemployment insurance, for example, Biden firmly told the group that he wasn’t willing to shorten the length of benefits, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, who attended the meeting, told The Washington Post.
“I’ve told both Republicans and Democrats, that’s my preference, to work together,” Biden told reporters on February 5. “But if I have to choose between getting help right now to Americans who are hurting so badly and getting bogged down in a lengthy negotiation or compromising on a bill that’s up to the crisis, that’s an easy choice. I’m going to help the American people who are hurting now.”
In addition, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki tweeted at the end of January that cutting down the size of the package would never be an option.
—Jen Psaki (@PressSec) January 28, 2021
Biden’s stimulus plan cleared the House Budget Committee on Monday, and it’s now headed to the House Rules Committee. Schumer said during a press conference on Tuesday that he aims to get the package to Biden’s desk before unemployment benefits expire on March 14.
Many Democratic lawmakers abandoned the prospect of working with Republicans on the stimulus package early on, with Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont saying on January 24 that he would support reconciliation measures to get pandemic relief to Americans without Republican votes.