Adam S. Olsen- Washington, D.C.
February 1, 2021

A group of 10 Republican senators on Sunday sent a letter to President Joe Biden with a slimmed-down COVID-19 aid proposal hours before a scheduled meeting with the President today at the White House to discuss it.  The $618 billion outline is a fraction of the $1.9 trillion proposal the Biden administration released last month, and scales back many of the elements Democrats consider essential to bolstering the economy and assisting those facing financial struggles from the ongoing pandemic.  The Republican proposal includes:

  1. Smaller $1,000 direct payments, which start to phase out at a lower $40,000 income threshold for individuals.
  2. Extends $300 per week federal unemployment benefits through June 30.
  3. Puts $20 billion into a national vaccine program.
  4. Injects $20 billion into K-12 schools, cut from $170 billion.
  5. Does not include any state and local government support, a priority for Democrats, Biden’s plan includes $350 billion.

Direct payments to households would be cut from $1,400 to $1,000, and individuals making more than $50,000 and married couples above $100,000 would be ineligible. The amounts would start phasing out at just $40,000 and $80,000 in annual income, respectively, down from $75,000 and $150,000 in prior aid packages and Biden’s new plan. Adult dependents and children would receive just $500, down from the full $1,400 in Biden’s proposal.  The GOP group includes Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Mitt Romney of Utah, Rob Portman of Ohio, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Todd Young of Indiana, Jerry Moran of Kansas, Mike Rounds of South Dakota and Thom Tillis of North Carolina.

The House plans to move forward this week with the budget reconciliation process, which would allow legislation to get through the Senate with just a simple majority.  Democrats on Monday will kick off a process to try to pass President Biden’s full $1.9 trillion COVID-19 rescue package, through a budget resolution that would direct two dozen House and Senate committees to draft pieces of a filibuster-proof reconciliation bill.  The effort promises to be the most wide-ranging budget reconciliation measure since 1993, when President Bill Clinton in his first year signed a sweeping deficit reduction package passed by a Democratic Congress with policy components written by 25 committees.  The current plan calls for 11 Senate committees and 13 House panels to receive instructions to develop pieces of the aid package, which the budget would cap at $1.9 trillion over a decade.  The plan is for House Budget Chairman John Yarmuth, (D-Kentucky) to begin the process by releasing a fiscal 2021 budget resolution on Monday. The “skinny” budget resolution, intended only as a vehicle for the COVID-19 reconciliation bill, is expected to go to the Rules Committee on Tuesday and hit the floor Wednesday.  In the Senate, Budget Chairman Bernie Sanders, (I-Vermont), is expected to introduce an identical budget resolution early in the week. If all goes according to plan, after a few days of debate the Senate would proceed to the “vote-a-rama” amendment process on Thursday with a goal of adopting the budget Friday morning.

For today, the House is back at 3:00 p.m. in proforma session.  The Senate is also back at 3:00 PM and at 5:30 will hold a confirmation vote for Alejandro Mayorkas to be Secretary of Homeland Security.

Adam S. Olsen, Washington, D.C.