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GOP senators who met with Biden have "significant questions" about size of $1.9 trillion COVID bill

Democrats prepare to fast-track Biden's relief plan
Democrats prepare to fast-track Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID economic plan 02:07

A group of 10 Republican senators sent a letter to President Biden questioning the size of his $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief proposal, after meeting with the president earlier this week and receiving more information from the White House on the legislation. The letter providing "feedback" for the president comes as Congress is moving ahead with the bill using a procedure that would allow the bill to pass without any Republican votes.

"In the spirit of continuing to have an open and productive dialogue, we want to provide feedback on the documents we received to date. We remain committed to working in a bipartisan fashion and hope that you will take into account our views as the legislative process moves forward," the letter said.

The group of 10 senators introduced a relief proposal over the weekend that would cost around $600 billion, which is significantly smaller than Mr. Biden's legislation. The Republican proposal lowered the income threshold for American receiving direct checks and decreased the amount of the checks from $1,400 to $1,000. The GOP plan also does not include any aid for state and local governments, a priority for Democrats.

These Republicans have questioned the size of Mr. Biden's proposal, since some money provided in previous relief legislation remains unspent. In the letter, they noted that a December CDC report showed that a smaller amount of funds would be required to reopen schools than what the Biden administration has proposed.

"We have significant questions, therefore, about the size and scope of what is proposed in the American Rescue Plan given the amounts already appropriated by Congress and the more than $60 billion in emergency funding that remains unspent by states and school districts for K-12 schools," the letter said. "Given the amount of funding already provided, the unspent appropriations, and the CDC's report, our proposal calls for an additional $20 billion to support in-person learning for our nation's students."

However, the Republicans say they are "encouraged" by reports that the administration is "considering further targeting the direct payments to lower- and middle-income families."

"We want to help struggling lower- and middle-income families as well as boost the economy; better targeting the direct payments would accomplish both goals," the letter said. "Thank you for your consideration of our analysis and views.  We look forward to receiving additional details on your $1.9 trillion request and to a further discussion of how best to assist the American people during this difficult time."

Utah Republican Senator Mitt Romney, who is one of the 10 GOP senators who met with Mr. Biden earlier this week, introduced his own proposal Thursday to provide direct payments to parents in order to reduce child poverty.

Although Mr. Biden has met with Republicans, many congressional Democrats say the need is too great for Americans to wait for bipartisan legislation. Congress is moving forward with budget reconciliation, a process which allows for legislation to pass with a simple majority of votes in the Senate, instead of reaching the 60-vote threshold needed for most bills. Republicans have condemned Democrats' use of budget reconciliation, arguing that it indicates Democrats are not truly willing to work on a bipartisan basis.

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