'Majority passing 'partisan' COVID-19 bill,' says Senate Minority Leader McConnell

Graphic showing number of presidential orders by US presidents

A group of 10 Republican senators offered a $618 billion alternative with slimmer $1,000 direct payments and zero aid for states and cities, but Biden panned it as insufficient, though private talks with the Republicans continue. "We need to restore the soul of the country", Biden said. "I'm OK with that".

At the start of his meeting with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and 10 top Senate Democratic committee chairmen in the Oval Office, Biden sounded confident he could still win over GOP support.

No GOP senators supported the new legislation in a Tuesday vote, suggesting the measure would not get far via conventional means. The most recent COVID-19 relief, approved in December, came after several months of back-and-forth negotiations between lawmakers and the Trump administration. The White House and senior Democrats on Capitol Hill maintain that the millions of Americans struggling due to the pandemic require a bolder approach.

President Joe Biden met with key Senators from his own party at the White House Wednesday, two days after he met with Senate Republicans.

But in opting for budget reconciliation, the Democrats can pass bills relating to taxation, spending, and debt with a simple majority of 51 and are shielded from filibusters with a 20-hour limit on debate.

The budget measure that the House and Senate plans to pass this week directs a dozen committees to start pulling together Biden's pandemic aid plan over the next two weeks, including $1,400 stimulus checks, $350 billion in state and local aid and more controversial provisions, like a $15 minimum wage hike. Tom Carper - met with Biden for an hour on Wednesday morning. Susan Collins of ME, who earlier formed part of the bipartisan group that nudged stimulus discussions forward at the end of Trump's term. What I'm doing is taking on the issues that- 99% of them- that the president, the last president of the United States, issued executive orders I felt were very counterproductive to our security, counterproductive to who we are as a country, particularly in the area of immigration. "The president's not going to compromise on principle", which is helping people in need, he said.

"You're seeing the kind of the beginning of that - like the bipartisanship conversation, listening to everyone, seeing what folks have to bring to the table", she said. Biden campaigned on his ability to broker deals with Republicans as well as his decades of experience serving in the Senate. "We have a mandate to make sure that we have a vaccination program that's comprehensive and that gets shots in people's arms and so that is what we're trying to do".

"We can better target the number, I'm ok with that", Biden told House Democrats, according to multiple sources on the call.

Biden framed his views during the virtual lunch meeting with Democrats by talking about the need not to forget working and middle-class families even those like nurses and pipefitters making $150,000 for a family of four who are straining during the crisis, according to a person granted anonymity to discuss the private call.

The Biden administration is pushing a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan, which includes $1,400 relief payments for most Americans, $160 billion for coronavirus vaccine development and pandemic response efforts, and an additional $400 in unemployment benefits through September.



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