Bipartisanship has its limits, particularly when it comes to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. President Joe Biden invited a group of 10 Republican lawmakers to meet Monday to discuss proposed legislation for pandemic relief.
Republican lawmakers are using bipartisanship to spin attempts to low ball pandemic relief. Led by Sen. Susan Collins, the group of legislators proposed a $600 billion relief package, representing only a fraction of the recovery plan proposed by Biden during his first week.
Reduced direct stimulus payments from $1,400 to $1,000 were among the few details released by Republican lawmakers. Under the Collins-led proposal, payments would only be made to individuals earning $40,000 or less, $80,000 for couples.
Biden has indicated one area he would be willing to compromise would be in the upper-income limits for those receiving stimulus relief payments. The White House indicated it would be open to capping stimulus payments to families making no more than $150,000.
Overall, Biden’s plan would address a wide range of issues related to the pandemic including extending pandemic unemployment benefits and housing assistance. Echoing concerns raised by Democratic lawmakers last spring, Biden proposed a set of measures to address persisting economic inequality. Some experts estimate that the poverty rate of hard-hit communities could be reduced by one-third.
The focus on this group of 10 Republican lawmakers takes shape as Senate Democrats grapple with how to move forward on their legislative agenda with the filibuster in place. As it currently stands, it is 60 votes to overcome any potential opposition.
Needing to build a winning coalition to pass legislation does not mean people should be given less than they need to not only survive but thrive. With close to 450,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic, the president wants to have space for both sides of the aisle to be heard but remains focused on getting relief to those in need.
Republican West Virginia governor and billionaire Jim Justice caught many by surprise when he weighed in Monday, saying that fiscal responsibility is not more important than providing help to people in need.
Congressional Democrats are prepared to move forward without Republican cooperation. Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, has said there are enough votes to pass the plan through the budget reconciliation process. Budget reconciliation would only require a simple majority.
Progressive members of Congress, like Rep. Ayanna Pressley, continue to remind their colleagues that families are struggling and children are going to bed hungry. The longer they delay, the longer American families go without needed support.