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Bipartisan group of senators plans to meet with White House on COVID bill

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Washington — A bipartisan group of senators, many of whom helped craft the framework for the most recent coronavirus relief package, is planning to meet with a top White House economic adviser in the coming days to discuss the next round of federal aid, according to lawmakers and sources familiar with the matter.

"I expect that we will be meeting with one of the new President's economic advisors within a week," Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine said in a statement. One source told CBS News that the group will have a call with Brian Deese, the director of the National Economic Council and President Joe Biden's top economic aide.

Mr. Biden has proposed a COVID-19 relief package that includes funds to support vaccine distribution efforts, extend unemployment benefits and expand federal aid to families, small businesses and communities. The White House's plan, which Mr. Biden said he plans to Congress soon, includes additional $1,400 direct payments to most Americans, on top of the $600 payments approved in December under the previous Congress. 

The formula for distributing direct payments in the first two rounds of direct payments has been based on income reported on recipients' 2019 tax returns, raising concerns about whether aid is reaching every American who needs it, given the massive job losses during the pandemic.

"There's been a concern about the cash payment and whether or not there ought to be a different criterion for passing it out and distributing it," Democratic Senator Dick Durbin told reporters.

The new group of senators overlaps with members of the so-called 908 Coalition, a group of lawmakers who crafted a bipartisan $908 billion relief proposal last December after months of stalemate in Congress. That proposal formed the basis for negotiations over the relief package that passed alongside an omnibus spending bill late last month.

Senators in the group include: 

  • Joe Manchin, Democrat of West Virginia

  • Mark Warner, Democrat of Virginia

  • Dick Durbin, Democrat of Illinois

  • Jeanne Shaheen, Democrat of New Hampshire

  • Maggie Hassan, Democrat of New Hampshire

  • John Hickenlooper, Democrat of Colorado

  • Mark Kelly, Democrat of Arizona

  • Angus King, independent of Maine

  • Bill Cassidy, Republican of Louisiana

  • Susan Collins, Republican of Maine

  • Lisa Murkowski, Republican of Alaska

  • Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah

  • Rob Portman, Republican of Ohio

  • Jerry Moran, Republican of Kansas

  • Shelley Moore Capito, Republican of West Virginia

  • Todd Young, Republican of Indiana

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