Republicans urge Joe Biden to scale down $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill

Ten U.S. Republican senators have offered a counter proposal to President Joe Biden’s USD $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill, saying a scaled-down version of the aid package would garner bipartisan support in Congress.

In a letter to Biden on Sunday, the legislators said their version of the bill would include $160 billion for COVID-19 vaccines, testing, treatment and personal protective equipment, and would call for more targeted relief than Biden’s plan to issue $1,400 stimulus checks for most Americans.

“In the spirit of bipartisanship and unity, we have developed a COVID-19 relief framework that builds on prior COVID assistance laws, all of which passed with bipartisan support,” the letter said, without providing a total cost for the proposal.

However, Associated Press reported that the package would cost about USD $600 billion.

The lawmakers asked to meet with Biden in the coming days, adding: “Our proposal reflects many of your stated priorities, and with your support, we believe that this plan could be approved quickly by Congress with bipartisan support.”

Biden, who served in the Senate for 36 years and has long been considered a bipartisan dealmaker, has expressed increasing urgency in getting the coronavirus bill passed.

He campaigned on promises of a more robust response to the pandemic than former President Donald Trump and has taken several executive actions since being sworn into office on January 20 to try to get the pandemic under control.

The US has reported more than 26 million cases of COVID-19 and more than 440,000 coronavirus-related deaths to date, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

On Friday, Biden told reporters he supported “passing COVID relief with support from Republicans if we can get it”.

“But COVID relief has to pass. There’s no ifs, ands or buts,” he said.

Typically, legislation requires 60 votes to pass. Democrats currently control 50 seats in the 100-member Senate, with Vice President Kamala Harris serving as the tie-breaking vote.

US legislators have already approved about USD $4 trillion in aid since the pandemic began, including a $900 billion relief package in December.