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Thursday, 4 March 2021

Republicans and Biden meet over COVID-19 relief

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Republicans and Biden meet over COVID-19 relief
Republicans and Biden meet over COVID-19 relief

Top Democrats in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives filed a joint $1.9 trillion budget measure on Monday, in a step toward bypassing Republicans on COVID-19 relief, even as President Joe Biden met with Republican senators who said they would press forward on a compromise effort.

Bryan Wood reports.

Democrats in U.S. Congress filed a joint $1.9 trillion budget measure on Monday, in a step toward bypassing Republicans on COVID-19 relief.

That's even after President Joe Biden met with Republican senators Monday night at the White House.

GOP Senator Susan Collins described the discussion as "frank and useful" but told reporters there had been no breakthrough on a bipartisan bill.

"I wouldn't say that we came together on a package tonight.

No one expected that in a two-hour meeting.

But what we did agree to do is to follow up and talk further at the staff level and amongst ourselves and with the president and vice president on how we can continue to work together on this very important issue." While the president has voiced a willingness to work with Republicans on a compromise effort, the White House has said they "will not settle for a package that fails to meet the moment." Before the meeting, the top two Democrats in Congress, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, laid the groundwork for bypassing Republicans on COVID-19 relief, filing a joint budget measure with the Biden-proposed price tag.

With the Senate split 50-50 and Vice President Kamala Harris wielding the tie-breaking vote, Democrats could sidestep a 60-vote threshold and enact the coronavirus legislation with a simple majority in a procedure called "reconciliation." If deployed, it would be the first flex by Democrats since winning razor-thin control of the Senate.

For the Republicans, their proposed plan offers no assistance to state and local governments, one of the items that a Biden adviser described as "must-haves." It also offers stimulus checks starting at $1000, less than the $1,400 checks sought by Biden and totals less than a third of the 1.9 trillion package.

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