10 Senate Republicans unveil a $618 billion stimulus plan including $1,000 direct payments in bid to strike bipartisan deal with Biden

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Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, arrives on Senate subway for a vote in the Capitol in December 2020. Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images
  • A group of 10 Senate Republicans led by Sen. Susan Collins of Maine unveiled a $US618 billion stimulus plan.
  • The GOP plan significantly cuts spending on numerous top Biden priorities, including stimulus checks and unemployment insurance.
  • Provisions include $US1,000 stimulus checks and federal unemployment benefits through the end of June.
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A group of 10 Senate Republicans on Monday unveiled their plan for a smaller economic relief package ahead of an afternoon meeting with President Joe Biden in the White House. The outline significantly curtails spending on numerous top Biden priorities, including a fresh wave of stimulus checks for Americans and unemployment insurance.

The group made up of mostly centrist Republicans is pushing Biden to strike a bipartisan deal on a more targeted rescue plan to fight the mounting economic and public health toll caused by the pandemic. The size is less than a third of the $US1.9 trillion proposal that the Biden administration put forward earlier this month.

The Republican counterproposal includes:

  • $US1,000 stimulus checks for Americans, plus an extra $US500 for dependent adults and children.
  • $US300 federal unemployment benefits through June 30.
  • $US160 billion for vaccines, virus testing, and personal protective equipment.
  • $US50 billion in more funds for the Paycheck Protection Program.
  • $US20 billion to reopen schools.
  • $US20 billion in child care.

The Republican plan devotes the same level of federal resources that Democrats want for vaccines and testing, a bipartisan priority on Capitol Hill. But it significantly cuts spending on White House efforts to provide economic relief to people financially devastated by the pandemic.

Notably, it does not include any funding for state and local governments, a major Democratic priority. The Biden plan laid out $US350 billion in federal help.

The direct payments in the GOP proposal are a reduction from the $US1,400 in the Biden plan. It would start phasing out at $US40,000 for individuals until eligibility is cut off at $US50,000. The checks would gradually diminish for married couples earning $US80,000, while those making above $US100,000 are no longer eligible.

It also limits the length of federal unemployment benefits through the end of June at existing levels. The Biden rescue package includes a $US400 federal unemployment benefit through the end of September, which would renew a government supplement to state unemployment checks beyond its current end date of March 14.

In addition to Collins, the group includes Republican Sens. Rob Portman of Ohio, Mitt Romney of Utah, Todd Young of Indiana, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Mike Rounds of South Dakota, and Jerry Moran of Kansas.

The working group of Republican senators sent a letter to the White House on Sunday pitching a meeting. “We recognise your calls for unity and want to work in good faith with your Administration to meet the health, economic, and societal challenges of the COVID crisis,” it said.

Several Democratic aides argued to Insider the counteroffer from Republicans is not a serious one since it cuts federal assistance in a range of areas. Many Democrats in Congress support another government aid package on top of the $US900 billion that lawmakers approved in December.

Republicans are staunchly opposed to the Biden plan, arguing it’s too large and swells the national debt further. Economists say the growing debt is an issue that should be set aside during the crisis.

Biden fashioned an image of being a bipartisan dealmaker on the campaign trail and struck a tone of unity in his inaugural address. However, the president has also said recently that he does not want the effort to draw Republican votes to end up considerably reducing the size of his emergency spending package.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement on Sunday evening that the administration’s economic aid plan is “badly needed” at a perilous moment in the pandemic.

“With the virus posing a grave threat to the country, and economic conditions grim for so many, the need for action is urgent, and the scale of what must be done is large,” Psaki said.

Earning the support of 10 Republicans in the Senate would allow Democrats to pass another rescue package more quickly than the reconciliation process they are poised to embark on this week.

The manoeuvre allows Democrats to skirt Republicans and pass their package with 50 votes. Democrats have the majority in the chamber because Vice President Kamala Harris casts the tie-breaking vote.