President Biden invited 10 Republican senators to the White House on Monday afternoon to discuss COVID-19 spending, and they have accepted the offer. The 10 GOP senators, led by Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), had written Biden earlier Sunday asking for the meeting, saying they could support a smaller stimulus bill than the $1.9 trillion package Biden is proposing. One of the signatories, Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), told Fox News Sunday their counteroffer would total about $600 billion. Details of the proposal are expected to be released Monday.
Biden invited the Republican senators to the White House “for a full exchange of views,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Sunday night, adding that “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.” House and Senate Democrats plan to file budget resolutions this week that would allow the Senate to pass much of Biden’s relief plan with a simple majority, averting a Republican filibuster. If 10 Republicans joined all 50 Democrats to support a bill, the budget reconciliation process would not be necessary.
“As leading economists have said, the danger now is not in doing too much; it is in doing too little,” Psaki said. “Americans of both parties are looking to their leaders to meet the moment.”
Many Democrats, recalling the GOP’s feints toward negotiation in 2009, argue that it is better to go big and party-line than small and bipartisan, even if the Republicans followed through and voted for a negotiated bill. Biden “is absolutely willing to negotiate,” Jared Bernstein, a top Biden economic adviser, said on Fox News Sunday. But “the cost of inaction is extremely high” and only Washington really cares about the process. “Look, the American people really couldn’t care less about budget process, whether it’s regular order, bipartisanship, whether it’s filibuster, whether it’s reconciliation,” he said. “They need relief, and they need it now.”