Stimulus: Republican senators offer $618 billion counterproposal to President Biden's $1.9 trillion plan

Denitsa Tsekova
·Reporter
·4 min read

A group of 10 Republican senators unveiled a scaled-down $618 billion stimulus proposal on Monday that includes $1,000 stimulus checks and less funding for unemployment benefits than President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus plan.

“Our proposal reflects many of your stated priorities, and with your support, we believe that this plan could be approved quickly by Congress with bipartisan support,” the senators wrote in a letter to the president on Sunday.

The proposal introduced by Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Mitt Romney (R-UT), Rob Portman (R-OH), and Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and five others has a much lower price tag than Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus plan he unveiled in January. The Republican senators asked for “more targeted assistance than in the Administration’s plan,” according to the letter.

The $618 billion plan includes an additional round of stimulus checks, but the payments are cut down to $1,000 versus $1,400 payments in Biden’s plan.

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Who qualifies for a payment under the Republican plan also differ. Single filers who make up to $40,000 are eligible for the full payment, and those who make under $50,000 qualify for a phased-out payment. Under Biden’s plan, single filers who make up to $75,000 qualify for the full payment, while those who earn less than $100,00 get a phased-out payment.

The Republican plan also extends the $300 in weekly unemployment benefits through June 30, while Biden’s proposal would increase the extra benefit to $400 and extend the program through September. But the GOP proposal doesn’t mention extending the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), which provides benefits to unemployed contractors and self-employed. Biden’s proposal would extend the PUA and other federal unemployment programs.

The Republican proposal also includes money for food assistance, vaccine development and distribution, testing and tracing, treatment, and supplies, among other provisions. But it excludes funding for state and local governments, a key provision for Democrats that they tried to include in the stimulus deal passed in December and are trying to make part of this relief legislation.

“If there is no state and local aid, I think this is a non-starter for the Democratic caucus,” Mark Harkins, a former congressional staffer and senior fellow at Georgetown’s Government Affairs Institute, told Yahoo Money. “For a true compromise to emerge, Republicans will have to be willing to give at least some on that point.”

‘Treating our tax dollars as if they're our tax dollars’

Numerous GOP senators have expressed concerns about the price tag on Biden’s plan as well as the rising deficit, including Cassidy who is part of the group proposing the smaller stimulus package.

“We're targeted to the needs of the American people, treating our tax dollars as if they're our tax dollars not just money to spend,” Cassidy told Fox News on Sunday.

Read more: Here's what's in Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion 'rescue plan' that could help your wallet

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 14: Senator Mitt Romney, a Republican from Utah, and Senator Lisa Murkowski, a Republican from Alaska, listen as Senator Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine, speaks during a news conference with a bipartisan group of lawmakers as they announce a proposal for a Covid-19 relief bill on Capitol Hill, on Monday, December 14, 2020 in Washington, DC. Lawmakers from both chambers released a $908 billion package Monday, split into two bills.(Photo by Al Drago for The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Senator Mitt Romney, a Republican from Utah, and Senator Lisa Murkowski, a Republican from Alaska, listen as Senator Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine, speaks during a news conference with a bipartisan group of lawmakers as they announce a proposal for a Covid-19 relief bill on Capitol Hill, on Monday, December 14, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Al Drago for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Romney called the $1.9 trillion price tag “pretty shocking” in an interview last month with Fox News.

Biden said he hoped to pass his proposal with bipartisan support through both chambers of Congress. But Democrats are also readying the reconciliation process that would allow them to pass some relief provisions with 51 votes and wouldn’t require support from GOP senators.

“They should negotiate with us, not make a take-it-or-leave-it offer,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) told the New York Daily News on Sunday.

Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris are scheduled to meet with the 10 Republican senators on Monday to discuss the proposal.

“[Biden] is restricted in how many changes he could make to what the Democratic caucus and Congress are already [putting] forward,” Harkins said. “It’s possible that these talks could put forward a compromise that changes either the amount of money per month or the income level at which people are receiving the benefits, but it is a heavy lift to change both.”

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Denitsa is a writer for Yahoo Finance and Cashay, a new personal finance website. Follow her on Twitter @denitsa_tsekova.

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