- The Washington Times - Monday, February 1, 2021

The White House said Monday there is “obviously a big gap” between President Biden’s coronavirus relief package and the scaled-down plan floated by a faction of GOP senators.

Press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters at the daily briefing Mr. Biden believes the “size of the package needs to be commensurate with the crisis we are facing.” 

“That is why he proposed $1.9 trillion,” she said. “Clearly, he thinks the package size needs to be closer to what he proposed.”

Mr. Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris are prepared to meet with the Senate Republicans — including Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Mitt Romney of Utah — who have rallied behind a $600 billion plan.

Ms. Psaki said Mr. Biden believes the “risk is going too small” and said the meeting with the GOP is “not a forum to make or accept an offer.”



Ms. Psaki also noted that West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice, a Republican, has urged lawmakers to “go big” and highlighted analysis from think tanks and economists that found that the president’s plan would strengthen the economy.

For Mr. Biden, the debate over the coronavirus relief plan is shaping up to be the first political test as president.

He had hoped to flash his bipartisan chops early on in his tenure, and is facing pressure from his political right and left.

The longer the negotiations drag out, the more likely it is that Mr. Biden will have to choose between demonstrating his bipartisan chops or showing his focus is on rewarding the party faithful.

The GOP senators have offered a $618 billion package that covers $160 billion for coronavirus relief, $132 billion in unemployment initiatives, as well as $20 billion for both child care and K-12 schools.

The plan has $50 billion more for money for the Paycheck Protection Program to help small businesses keep their employees, $12 trillion in food assistance programs and $4 trillion in health services.

It also includes $1,000 stimulus checks that start to phase out at $40,000 per year for individuals with a $100,000 cap for joint filers.

The Biden proposal includes $1,400 stimulus checks that are phased out at $75,000 for individuals and $206,000 for joint filers.

The president also wants $400 billion to expand coronavirus vaccinations and reopen schools and $350 billion in aid to state and local governments. 

And he’s seeking to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour through the legislation.

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