The White House is insisting that Republicans have opportunities to influence the COVID relief bill, even as President Joe Biden joined Senate Democrats for a virtual lunch Tuesday to discuss his $1.9 trillion coronavirus rescue plan.
Watch the briefing in the player above.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Tuesday, “we should be engaging, Democrats and Republicans should be engaging with each other,” adding “but there certainly is a gap between where we are and where the proposal, the Republican proposal that was discussed last night was.”
Members of Congress are setting up votes to fast-track the sweeping aid package toward eventual approval with or without Republican support.
Biden and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen met virtually with the senators during a private session, both having urged lawmakers to act big in confronting the pandemic and economic crisis.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer set up a procedural vote for later Tuesday in the Senate, launching a lengthy budget procedure that would allow Democrats who have a slim majority to pass Biden’s proposal on their own if Republicans object.
The swift action on next steps comes after Biden told Republican senators during a lengthy two-hour meeting Monday evening that he’s unwilling to settle on an insufficient coronavirus aid package after they pitched their slimmed down $618 billion proposal.
No compromise was reached night during the meeting, Biden’s first with lawmakers at the White House. The president made it clear that he won’t delay aid in hopes of winning GOP support.
The two sides are far apart, with the Republican group of 10 senators focused primarily on the health care crisis and smaller $1,000 direct aid to Americans, and Biden leading Democrats toward a more sweeping rescue package to shore up households, local governments and a partly shuttered economy.
House and Senate Democrats released a separate budget resolution Monday a step toward approving Biden’s package with a reconciliation process that wouldn’t depend on Republican support for passage.
At the White House briefing, Psaki also reiterated the Biden administration’s concern after a Moscow court has ordered Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny to prison for more than 2 1/2 years for violating the terms of his probation while he was recuperating in Germany from nerve-agent poisoning.
Navalny, who is the most prominent critic of President Vladimir Putin, had earlier denounced the proceedings as a vain attempt by the Kremlin to scare millions of Russians into submission.
“We reiterate our call for the Russian government to immediately, unconditionally release Mr. Navalny, as well as the hundreds of other Russian citizens wrongfully detained in recent weeks for exercising their rights,” Psaki said.