Updated: March 5, 2021
Republican senators on Monday failed to convince President Joseph R. Biden Jr. that their $600 billion COVID plan is better than his proposed $1.9 trillion bill.
Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) told journalists outside the White House immediately following their meeting with President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris to discuss their COVID-19 relief proposal that the discussion will continue but the two sides did not come together.
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The group of nine senators walked out of the West Wing after a nearly two hour meeting with President Biden and spoke to reporters.
Collins, who spike on their behalf, said: “Good evening everybody. We have just had a very productive, cordial, two hour meeting with the President and Vice President and some of their key aides to discuss the next steps on the COVID relief package.
“We outlined for the President the provisions we have proposed as part of an approximately $600 billion package. He explained in more depth areas that were not fleshed out as much in the package – the $1.9 trillion package. And it was a very good exchange of views.
“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.
“All of us are concerned about struggling families, teetering small businesses and overwhelmed health care system, getting vaccines out and into people’s arms and strengthening our economy and addressing the public health crisis that we face. I think it was an excellent meeting and we are very appreciative that has his first official meeting in the Oval Office, the President chose to spend so much time with us in a frank and very useful discussion.
“Finally, let me just say that we have demonstrated in the last year that we can come together on a bipartisan package dealing with the COVID crisis. In fact, we’ve done that not just once or twice, we’ve done that five times. And I am hopeful that we can once again pass a sixth bipartisan COVID relief package.”
Collins and other senators did not answer questions from reporters.
Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Mitt Romney (R-UT), Rob Portman (R-OH), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Todd Young (R-IN), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Mike Rounds (R-SD), and Thom Tillis (R-NC) sent a letter to President Biden on Sunday, January 31, outlining their Covid-19 relief compromise, and they accepted an invitation to meet with the President last night.
On Monday, they met with the president and Vice President Kamala D. Harris for about two hours, but did not come to an agreement.
While nine Senators were present at the White House, Senator Mike Rounds (R-SD) was on the phone.
The Senators unveiled the details of their Covid-19 relief proposal on Monday morning.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki also described the meeting as “substantive and productive.
She said: “The President and the Vice President had a substantive and productive discussion with Republican senators this evening at the White House. The group shared a desire to get help to the American people, who are suffering through the worst health and economic crisis in a generation.
“While there were areas of agreement, the President also reiterated his view that Congress must respond boldly and urgently, and noted many areas which the Republican senators’ proposal does not address. He reiterated that while he is hopeful that the Rescue Plan can pass with bipartisan support, a reconciliation package is a path to achieve that end. The President also made clear that the American Rescue Plan was carefully designed to meet the stakes of this moment, and any changes in it cannot leave the nation short of its pressing needs.
“The President expressed his hope that the group could continue to discuss ways to strengthen the American Rescue Plan as it moves forward, and find areas of common ground — including work on small business support and nutrition programs. He reiterated, however, that he will not slow down work on this urgent crisis response, and will not settle for a package that fails to meet the moment.”