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Third stimulus relief bill: what’s in the Republicans’ $600bn proposal?

A letter sent to President Biden by a group of 10 GOP senators outlines a counter-proposal for the new covid-19 economic relief bill and calls for a White House meeting.

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Third stimulus relief bill: what’s in the Republicans’ $600bn proposal?
TOM BRENNER REUTERS

A group of ten Republican Senators have sent a letter to the White House informing them of a $600 billion covid-19 economic relief package currently being drafted by GOP lawmakers. The package is a counter-proposal to the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan which President Biden first announced in January.

The letter also called for a White House meeting to “discuss our proposal in greater detail”, a request which Biden’s team agreed to in a statement released on Sunday evening. The President is expected to meet with lawmakers in the coming days.

What is in the new $600 billion coronavirus relief proposal?

Many Republican Senators have questioned the need for such an extensive package so soon after the emergency relief bill was signed in late-December 2020. Their proposal is therefore far smaller, costing less than a third of the price of Biden’s.

The GOP package is reportedly more focused on tackling the public health crisis than the economic consequences, spending $160 billion on vaccines, testing, treatment and personal protective equipment.

However with that there are some considerable omissions when compared to the Biden plan, most notably to stimulus checks. While some have criticised the $1,400 direct payments included in the American Rescue Plan, the entitlement is reduced to $1,000 in the Republicans' proposal.

There is also a substantial decrease on the provision to schools after they branded the $170 billion in the Democrat’s proposal as excessive. Republican Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, one of the ten who signed the letter, argued "we've already given them 110 percent of what they usually receive... its teachers' unions telling their members not to go to work."

Biden agrees to White House meeting to discuss stimulus bill

The group of Republican lawmakers also requested a White House meeting so they could discuss their concerns further. Biden had pledged to govern by consensus during his election campaign and had drawn criticism from some in Congress for his use of executive orders during the early days of his presidency.

The letter, also signed by GOP moderates like Senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Mitt Romney of Utah, reads: “We request the opportunity to meet with you to discuss our proposal in greater detail and how we can work together to meet the needs of the American people during this persistent pandemic.”

On Sunday evening a White House statement confirmed that Biden will meet with the 10 Senators in the coming days in an attempt to help bridge the gap between the two sides. The statement reads: “In response, the President spoke to Senator Collins, and invited her and other signers of the letter to come to the White House early this week for a full exchange of views."

This comes as pressure is growing from within Biden’s own party to extend the stimulus check provision included in the package. A group of 50 progressive lawmakers have signed a letter asking Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris to considering making the stimulus checks a monthly payments.

The next few days could be crucial in Biden’s presidency as he looks to balance opposing requests from the GOP and from his fellow Democrats. Given the urgent need to provide economic support the President will want to make a decision soon so his administration can focus on getting the vital funds distributed.