Biden faces presidency-defining dilemma over Republican offer on Covid-19 rescue plan
President Joe Biden will on Monday meet with 10 Republican senators who have drawn up a smaller counter-proposal to his $1.9 trillion Covid-19 rescue plan in the most critical test yet of his core promise to forge unity over bitter partisan lines.
But hopes for a rare bipartisan deal at the start of a new administration still look doubtful because the offer pushed by Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and her colleagues has a potentially fatal catch. It is less than a third of the size of the economic shock treatment the White House says the nation needs.
Biden's original legislation proposes direct payments to most Americans and extends unemployment benefits until September as it seeks to plug a huge hole in the economy caused by the pandemic. It also raises the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, fulfilling a major campaign promise. The plan provides hundreds of billions of dollars to expand Covid-19 testing, to improve the rollout of vaccines and to get kids back in school.
The President must now evaluate whether the new Republican offer is a good faith opening bid in an effort to find common ground, or a bluff calling exercise that would cause lasting damage to a new President's authority and political capital if he were to accept it.
And while Biden is keen prove his capacity to make divided Washington work, he knows he risks fracturing support from Capitol Hill Democrats if he significantly downsizes his own plan to win Republican support in the Senate