WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Officials in President Joe Biden’s administration tried to head off Republican concerns that his $1.9 trillion pandemic relief proposal was too expensive on a Sunday call with Republican and Democratic lawmakers, some of whom pushed for a smaller plan targeting vaccine distribution.
Lawmakers from both parties said they had agreed that getting the COVID-19 vaccine to Americans should be a priority, but some Republicans objected to such a hefty package only a month after Congress passed a $900 billion relief measure.
“It seems premature to be considering a package of this size and scope,” said Republican Senator Susan Collins, who was on the call with Brian Deese, director of the White House’s National Economic Council, and other top Biden aides.
Collins said she agreed additional funding was needed for vaccine distribution, but in a “more limited” bill, and planned to discuss such a measure with other lawmakers.
Senator Dick Durbin, the Senate’s No. 2 Democrat, said the call had shown that coronavirus relief was Biden’s top priority.
“We can’t wait,” White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters. “Just because Washington has been gridlocked before doesn’t mean it needs to continue to be gridlocked.” Read More