(Bloomberg) — The White House economic director may get a chilly response Sunday in making the case for the Biden administration’s $1.9 trillion economic relief plan to a centrist, bipartisan group of senators.
Brian Deese is scheduled to speak by phone to 16 lawmakers, including eight Republicans, at 3 p.m.
President Joe Biden’s team has said it would prefer to pass a relief package with Republican as well as Democratic votes. Democrats have the option of passing some parts using a special budget tool, known as reconciliation, that allows them to enact legislation with just a simple majority in the Senate.
Republican Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, who’s expected to be at Sunday’s meeting, termed the proposed price-tag “pretty shocking,” especially on the heels of the $900 billion stimulus plan passed by Congress in late December. On “Fox News Sunday,” Romney called for measures focused specifically on beating back the coronavirus as the U.S. incurs debt to pay for the package.
“It’s important that we don’t borrow trillions of dollars from the Chinese for things that may not be absolutely necessary,” Romney said in a separate interview on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Senator Mike Rounds of South Dakota, a Republican who’s not expected to take part in Sunday’s meeting, questioned elements in the plan, including a proposed increase to the federal minimum wage.
“If you’re going to talk about an emergency operation, why would you then include and demand that [minimum wage hikes] be a part of it?” he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “I think that’s just looking for a way to not get some things done.”
White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain doubled down on that part of the proposal Sunday. “We certainly think the minimum wage should be part of this urgent relief package,” Klain said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren, a supporter of the drive to raise the minimum wage who’s also is not scheduled to be at the meeting, said Sunday on CNN’s “Inside Politics” that “a big part of what we do needs to be targeted to those who are suffering most.”
Independent Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont backed the use of reconciliation to pass a bill without Republican support, if necessary.
“If Republicans are willing to work with us to address that crisis, welcome. Let’s do it. But what we cannot do is wait weeks and weeks and months and months to go forward. We have got to act now,” he said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “As soon as we possibly can.”
In addition to Romney, the Republican senators scheduled to be at the meeting include Lisa Murkowski of Alaska; Susan Collins of Maine; Jerry Moran of Kansas; Shelley Moore Capito of West Virgina; Todd Young of Indiana; Rob Portman of Ohio; Bill Cassidy of Louisiana.
The Democrats include Joe Manchin of West Virginia; Mark Warner of Virginia; Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire; Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire; Mark Kelly of Arizona; John Hickenlooper of Colorado; and Dick Durbin of Illinois. Angus King, a Maine independent, is also expected to attend.