Republicans Pitch Biden on Smaller Aid Plan as Democrats Prepare to Act Alone
“He reiterated, however, that he will not slow down work on this urgent crisis response, and will not settle for a package that fails to meet the moment,” Ms. Psaki said.There was scant evidence, for now, that any Democrats were seriously considering embracing a proposal as limited as the one the Republicans have laid out. And the Republicans, too, were facing a test of whether they could hold together and forge a compromise that would ultimately be seen as a sufficient response to the public health and economic toll of the pandemic.Republicans outlined their plan as the Congressional Budget Office projected that the American economy would return to its pre-pandemic size by the middle of this year, even if Congress did not approve any more federal aid for the recovery, but that it would be years before everyone thrown off the job by the pandemic would be able to return to work.The rosier-than-expected projections were likely to inject even more debate into the discussions over the stimulus measure, emboldening those who have pushed Mr. Biden to scale back his plan. But they also indicated that there was little risk that another substantial package of federal aid could “overheat” the economy, and reflected the prolonged difficulties of shaking off the virus and returning to full levels of economic activity.The Republicans’ $618 billion proposal would include many of the same elements as Mr. Biden’s plan, with $160 billion for vaccine distribution and development, coronavirus testing and the production of personal protective equipment; $20 billion to help schools reopen; more relief for small businesses; and additional aid to individuals. But it differs in ways large and small, omitting a federal minimum wage increase or direct aid to states and cities.It would slash the direct payments to Americans, providing $1,000 instead of $1,400 and limiting them to the lowest income earners, excluding individuals who earned more than $50,000. It would also pare back federal jobless aid, which is set to lapse in March, setting weekly payments at $300 through June instead of $400 through September.On Capitol Hill, top Democrats said they were worried a smaller package would not adequately meet the needs of struggling Americans.
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