U.S. Sen. Susan Collins said Tuesday that President Joe Biden’s proposed $1.9 trillion relief package is unlikely to get Republican votes in the Senate, as Democrats look to advance the bill before a mid-March deadline for unemployment benefits.
The nearly $2 trillion stimulus bill is the new president’s first major legislative initiative and includes a range of Democratic priorities, including $1,400 stimulus checks, extended unemployment benefits, funding for state and local governments and money to assist the distributions of coronavirus vaccines. But Republicans have balked at the price tag and many of the provisions and Democrats have largely indicated they are not relying on bipartisan support.
The Maine Republican, who consistently has the most moderate voting record in her party, according to VoteView, is among the Senate Republicans generally seen as most open to compromise with Biden. She led 10 Republicans in a meeting with the Democratic president in early February, where they pitched a $618 billion alternative to the president’s plan.
Collins said she left that meeting hopeful about a compromise. She indicated she would be open to voting for a plan larger than the one proposed by Senate Republicans, saying the $618 billion bill was only the beginning of negotiations, but expressed concerns about Biden’s proposed level of spending given money still unspent from previous relief packages.
Congressional Democrats moved ahead shortly thereafter with the budget reconciliation process, which would allow them to pass a budget bill entirely along partisan lines, with Vice President Kamala Harris serving as the tie-breaking vote in the Senate.
Collins told reporters Tuesday that she was looking at what changes to the bill could still be made. But she said she would be “surprised” if there was support for it among Senate Republicans if the topline figure remains at $1.9 million.
The relief bill is expected to pass the House later this week after clearing a committee vote Monday. Several provisions, including the $15 minimum wage, could face trouble in the Senate as some Democrats have expressed skepticism. Biden would have to sign the bill in early March to prevent enhanced federal unemployment benefits from lapsing.