WASHINGTON, D.C. — Indiana Sen. Todd Young and nine of his fellow Republican Senate colleagues met with President Joe Biden on Feb. 1 to discuss the GOP’s counterproposal to the Biden administration’s coronavirus relief plan.
The meeting, Biden’s first with congressional lawmakers at the White House, lasted nearly two hours, and ended with both parties walking away from the negotiations without arriving at a deal.
Despite not reaching the compromise Republicans wanted, Young said Biden deserves credit for agreeing to meet with the GOP senators and hear their proposal.
“The tone was respectful, and we exchanged views and perspectives and sourced many of the evidentiary materials that we were using to justify our arguments,” Young said during a news conference with Indiana reporters. “I think we found some common ground in some areas and there are other areas that remain open to negotiation.
“I think a tone was laid for further consultations and negotiations at the staff level, which have begun today.”
During the nearly two-hour meeting, Biden told the Republican senators that he’s unwilling to settle on what he views as an insufficient, slimmed down $600 billion coronavirus relief package, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said. By contrast, Biden is calling for a $1.9 trillion appropriation — more than three times larger than the GOP counterproposal.
Despite the apparent impasse, Young said he believes discussions over the size and scope of the next coronavirus relief package will continue until both sides arrive at a bipartisan proposal or discover that a compromise can’t be reached.
If Biden decides not to compromise with Republicans, the Democrats can simply pass their own coronavirus relief package through a process called reconciliation, which can be done with a simple majority vote in the Senate. Young said choosing to use the reconciliation mechanism would amount to a “more partisan process.”
Originally, Democratic congressional leadership had strayed away from negotiating at all with Republicans, something Young said he hopes will change in light of Feb. 1’s meeting at the White House.
“Over the last year, during a very difficult political environment and a tough time more broadly for our nation, we passed five separate COVID response measures in a bipartisan fashion,” he said. “There have been very few people who voted against those measures.”
Young said the mood in Washington seems to have changed.
“In the wake of an inaugural address where the theme was unity, one would hope that we could come together once again on a bipartisan measure to kick off this administration and really turn that language of unity into real unified action.”
Young admitted he is uncertain about whether a compromise can be reached, but said he remains committed to working with the Biden administration in the same manner as he did with the former Trump administration.
On Jan. 31, Young and nine other GOP senators unveiled their own coronavirus relief framework that would amount to $600 billion. In a Feb. 1 news release, Young billed the Republican counterproposal as a “more targeted” approach to “rein in” Biden’s $1.9 trillion proposal.
In addition to the vast difference in the size of each proposal, there are key areas where they diverge.
The GOP plan proposes direct payments of $1,000 to individuals, while the Democratic plan calls for $1,400 payments. The Republican plan includes more stringent income requirements for eligibility, capping the income levels for a family to receive the full payment at $80,000, which means the money would go to fewer families.
Notably, the Democratic proposal calls for $350 billion for states, money they say would help public workers keep their jobs and police and fire departments running smoothly. The GOP plan offers no similar state aid.
Young addressed the absence of funding for states in the GOP counterproposal during Feb. 2’s media availability, saying he is opposed to “padding the pockets of profligate state governments.”
He defended his position by arguing that data from JP Morgan shows more than half of U.S. states brought in more revenue in 2020 than they did in 2019.
Others, like California, New York and Illinois, Young said, have underfunded public pensions and budgetary problems and shouldn’t be get relief money to spend on non-COVID related items.
“The residents of those states elected irresponsible government officials who made unkeepable promises to their constituents,” he claimed. “It is not the job, it should not be the responsibility of Hoosiers to bail out those states.
“But where there are expenditures that can be traced to COVID, count me in, we need to be able to help out those municipal fire departments, we need to pay for the mental health services of the frontline workers as we have proposed doing.”
However, Young said that the meeting with Biden illuminated several areas where there is broad agreement.
“When it comes to vaccination, getting people back to work safely and getting our children back into schools, there’s no disagreement,” he said.
Besides Young, the Republican senators meeting with Biden were Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Bill Cassidy of Louisana, Mitt Romney of Utah, Rob Portman of Ohio, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Jerry Moran of Kansas, Mike Rounds of South Dakota and Thom Tillis of North Carolina.