Susan Collins: Coronavirus relief talks between White House, Senate Republicans have ‘stalled’


Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who is leading a group of Senate Republicans in negotiations with the White House on coronavirus relief, said Tuesday those talks have “pretty much stalled.”

“The administration has not indicated a willingness to come down from its $1.9 trillion figure,” Ms. Collins said.

She said she and nine other Republicans are willing to compromise on their $618 billion framework.

President Biden has said in recent days that he’s open to hearing ideas that could make the $1.9 trillion package better or streamline costs.

“I’ve had conversations with people at the White House and other members of the group have as well,” Ms. Collins said. “But I think the sticking point is that the White House staff seems very wedded to the $1.9 trillion thing.”

Ms. Collins said Mr. Biden is doing a decent job at outreach but that potential progress is getting undermined by other members of his party.

She said Mr. Biden appeared interested in the GOP proposal in a recent meeting at the White House, but Ron Klain, the president’s chief of staff, was shaking his head in the back of the room.

“Which is not exactly an encouraging sign,” she said.

Sen. Mitt Romney, Utah Republican, said it doesn’t make sense to include $350 billion in funding for state and local governments when tax revenues are rebounding significantly compared to dire forecasts in the middle of the pandemic last year.

He said he hasn’t heard from the White House since he indicated he would not support Neera Tanden, Mr. Biden’s pick to lead the White House budget office.

“There’s been very little effort on the part of the White House to meet with us and to see if we can find a middle ground,” Mr. Romney said.

Democrats can power the relief package through the Senate without Republican support as long as they don’t lose any of their members in the 50-50 split chamber.

Vice President Kamala Harris would break any ties.

More moderate Democrats like Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona have indicated they’re not on board with increasing the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour under the fast-track rules Democrats are using to bypass a possible filibuster.

Mr. Manchin suggested increasing the wage to $11 per hour, but White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday that Mr. Biden wants $15.

“There [will] be an opportunity for Sen. Manchin and others to put forward ideas and proposals and we’ll see where that process lands,” she said. “But he proposed the $15 increase for a reason and he stands by it.”

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