The canadian press
White House begins talks with lawmakers over COVID-19 relief
WASHINGTON – Key aides to President Joe Biden began talks with a group of moderate Senate Republicans and Democrats on Sunday over a $ 1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package as Biden faces growing headwinds in his efforts to gain bipartisan support for his presidency’s initial legislative effort. Lawmakers on the right question the wisdom of racking up larger deficits while those on the left urge Biden not to spend too much time on bipartisanship as the pandemic kills thousands of Americans every day and costs more jobs due to tighter restrictions in many communities. At least a dozen senators met for an hour and 15 minutes on a virtual call with White House National Economic Council Director Brian Deese and other senior White House officials. Many are hoping to approve a relief package before the trial of former President Donald Trump, which is expected to begin in two weeks, passes Washington’s attention. Senator Angus King, independent from Maine, called the opening talks a “serious effort.” “There was no hint of cynicism or lack of commitment in at least trying to find something,” King said. “If they were just trying to cover it up, I don’t think it would have interrupted the Packers game. King told reporters there was “absolute consensus” among the group that the No.1 priority was to speed up vaccine distribution and expand testing and tracing for COVID-19. The White House has not appeared to move to break the package or lower the overall price, even as it pushes for bipartisan support. There was also no discussion of pushing it through a procedural move that could be done without Republicans, King said. A key Republican, Senator Susan Collins of Maine, said afterwards: “It seems premature to consider a set of this size and scope. Collins said instead that she would bring the bipartisan group together “and see if we can come up with a more targeted package.” She said in a statement that a bill with additional funding for vaccine distribution “would be helpful.” Senators from both sides have raised questions about the economic aid provisions, particularly making direct payments of $ 1,400 to Americans more suited to recipients on a needs basis. Senators also wanted more data on how the White House hit the $ 1.9 trillion figure. Many of the senators belong to a bipartisan group that has marked the contours of the latest COVID-19 deal approved late last year. They were joined on the call by the two leaders of the House Problem Solver Caucus, Reps Josh Gottheimer, DN.J., and Tom Reed, RN.Y., who were also part of the previous discussions. Senator Jeanne Shaheen, DN.H., told The Associated Press that no red line has been drawn. But she added that there was a consensus among those calling “that the more targeted aid, the more effective it can be.” Overall, “it was a conversation and it wasn’t about drawing lines in the sand,” Shaheen said. “It was about how can we work together to help the people of this country.” White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Jeff Zients and White House Director of Legislative Affairs Louisa Terrell also joined the call. Out of the gate, Biden made it clear that moving swiftly through another round of coronavirus relief was a top priority as he sought to bring the growing pandemic and related economic crisis under control, while demonstrating that he could break through the stalemate that plagued Congress for many. of the last two presidencies. Biden and his collaborators in their audience …
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