While hopes of a bipartisan COVID-19 economic stimulus plan appeared to fade on Saturday, the situation appeared more hopeful on Sunday, as Bloomberg reports that "ten Republican senators have proposed an alternative plan" which would cost approximately $600 billion, and which they claim has bipartisan support.
Among the signatories are Sens. Susan Collins (ME), Mitt Romney (UT) and Lisa Murkowski (AK).
"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 Senators wrote in a Sunday letter addressed to President Biden.
"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. We request the opportunity to meet with you to discuss our proposal in greater detail and how we can work together to meet the needs of the American people during this persistent pandemic."
The GOP proposal includes $160 billion to expand vaccine development and distribution, testing and tracing, treatment and supplies, and the production and development of personal protective equipment (PPE). Also included is $4 billion for behavioral health and substance abuse services, which mirrors Biden's plan.
What's more, the GOP Senators note that "billions of dollars remain unspent from the previous COVID relief packages" which can be reallocated to the new plan.
And according to Jared Bernstein, a member of Biden's Council of Economic Advisers while appearing on "Fox News Sunday," the Biden White House is "absolutely willing to negotiate."
"Glad to hear from this letter that they’re on board, but we need to learn a lot more about it. Right now, we are in a position where delay and inaction are the enemy of moving forward," he added.
On Friday, President Biden said "I support passing Covid relief with support from Republicans if we can get it. But the Covid relief has to pass -- there’s no ifs, ands or buts," before warning that an entire generation of children face weaker lifetime earnings thanks to the pandemic.
One of the ten Republicans who signed the letter, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, said that the proposal comes to "about $600 billion," seemingly confirming the $500 - $600 billion range pegged by one GOP aide - which notably pales in comparison to the $1.9 trillion stimulus Biden seeks.
According to Cassidy, stimulus payments would be as high as $1,000 and would be conducted in a more targeted fashion to weed out those who don't actually need them. Biden, meanwhile, has proposed $1,400 checks - which would "top up" the $600 payments made in December.
The cooperation of at least 10 GOP Senators will be required to reach 60 votes in the chamber - the required number to pass bills under normal procedures, assuming all 50 Democratic Senators would be on board.
That said, if Republicans don't play ball, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has threatened to move forward with a budget process that would allow 50 Democrats to pass certain parts of the Biden plan without GOP cooperation. That said, budget reconciliation has its limits.
According to Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), one of the ten Republicans who signed onto the compromise proposal, reverting to reconciliation would add to the partisan divide in Washington.
"If you can’t find bipartisanship on COVID-19, I don’t know where you can find it," Portman told CNN's "State of the Union," adding that the Republican plan would have "all of the health care funding that President Biden has in his proposal."
The other GOP Senators signed onto the bipartisan effort aside from Cassiday and Portman are: Susan Collins of Maine, Todd Young of Indiana, Mike Rounds of South Dakota, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mitt Romney of Utah, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Jerry Moran of Kansas and Thom Tillis of North Carolina.