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10 Republicans propose alternate Covid relief plan to Biden

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(FILES) In this file photo US President Joe Biden prepares to sign executive orders on affordable healthcare in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, on January 28, 2021. – A group of 10 Republican senators have written President Joe Biden to propose an alternative to his massive Covid-19 relief plan, arguing that their approach could garner the bipartisan support he has said he seeks.<br />Senator Susan Collins, a moderate Republican from Maine, said on Twitter that she had joined the group, which asked the president in a letter on January 29, 2021 for a meeting to discuss their plan. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP)

A group of 10 Republican senators have written President Joe Biden to propose an alternative to his massive Covid-19 relief plan, arguing that their approach could garner the bipartisan support he has said he seeks.

Senator Susan Collins, a moderate Republican from Maine, said on Twitter that she had joined the group, which asked the president in a letter Friday for a meeting to discuss their plan.

She said the group would release details of their plan on Monday.

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“We’ve received the letter and we certainly will be reviewing it,” Brian Deese, director of the president’s National Economic Council, told CNN.

He said Biden was “open to ideas,” but stressed that action was needed immediately.

The president’s $1.9 trillion plan, he added, had been “calibrated to the economic crisis that we face,” which he said had left some 30 million people without enough to eat.

Biden unveiled his plan on January 14, saying it was urgently needed to bring the Covid-19 pandemic under control and help pull the nation out of a deep economic slump.

The Biden plan would provide checks to families, funds to help safely reopen schools, money to accelerate Covid-19 testing and vaccine distribution, financial support for struggling small businesses, and increased food aid for those in need.

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Republicans say the bill is far too costly at a time of historic debt levels, and with Congress already having committed some $4 trillion to pandemic relief. They want aid more closely targeted to those in need.

Republicans also want a separate vote on raising the federal minimum wage — which Biden’s plan would boost from $7.25 an hour to $15.

If Senate Democrats hold together in support of Biden’s plan, the 10 Republican senators would give them enough support to pass the bill under normal procedure, which requires 60 out of 100 votes.

Democrats have said that if necessary they will turn to a process known as reconciliation, which would allow them to pass the package with a simple majority.

The Democrats control 50 seats in the upper chamber, but ties are broken by Vice President Kamala Harris. They also hold a narrow majority in the House of Representatives.

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Biden said on Friday that “I support 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.”

Independent-minded Senator Bernie Sanders struck a similar tone on Sunday.

“If Republicans want to work with us, they have better ideas on how to address those crises, that’s great,” he told ABC’s “This Week.”

But he quickly added that he was “absolutely confident” that Democrats could stick together and pass the relief bill through reconciliation.

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