Ten Republican senators, including Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski, have penned a letter to President Joe Biden, offering a different COVID-19 relief package than the one proposed by the Biden Administration, and asking for a meeting.
Signed by Republican moderates, the letter dated Jan. 31 says they are reaching out in response to Biden’s pledge of bipartisanship. Half of those signing the letter were openly opposed to former President Donald Trump and voted in favor of proceeding with his second impeachment. They include Mitt Romney of Utah, Susan Collins of Maine, Ben Sasse of Nebraska, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.
“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. 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.
“Addressing this public health crisis has required robust and rapid support for vaccine development and distribution, testing and tracing, treatment and supplies, including the production and deployment of personal protective equipment. We agree with you that continuing to build our capacity in these areas is crucial to overcoming the pandemic. Like your plan, our proposal includes a total of $160 billion to enhance our capabilities in these areas as well as to support our health care providers, who are on the front lines of the pandemic. Our plan mirrors your request for $4 billion to bolster our behavioral health and substance abuse services.
“Our proposal also includes economic relief for those Americans with the greatest need, providing more targeted assistance than in the Administration’s plan. We propose an additional round of economic impact payments for those families who need assistance the most, including their dependent children and adults. Or plan also includes extending enhanced federal unemployment benefits at the current level and fully funding your request for nutrition assistance to help struggling families.
“We share your goal of providing additional assistance for our small businesses. Included in our plan are additional resources to help our small businesses and their employees through the successful Paycheck Protection Program and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program.
“Getting our children back to school and making sure that schools are able to stay open safely are priorities that we strongly support. Our plan includes resources for these purposes as well as for child care, which is a critical component to getting Americans back to work.
“Finally, we note that billions of dollars remain unspent from the previous COVID relief packages. Just last month, Congress provided $900 billion in additional resources, and communities are only now receiving much of that assistance. Some of the spending appropriated through the CARES Act, passed last March, also has yet to be exhausted. The proposal we have outlined is mindful of these past efforts, while also acknowledging the priorities that need additional support right now.
“In 2020, Members of the House and Senate and the previous Administration came together on a bipartisan basis five times to direct the resources of the federal government toward combatting the urgent COVID-19 pandemic. Each of these laws received the support of members from both political parties. With your support, we believe Congress can once again craft a relief package that will provide meaningful, effective assistance to the American people and set us on a path to recovery.
“We recognize your calls for unity and want to work in good faith with your Administration to meet the health, economic, and societal challenges of the COVID crisis.”