A day after joining several Republican senators in a meeting with President Joe Biden about a coronavirus aid bill, U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy Tuesday conceded they might not reach a bipartisan deal, while he urged the White House not to pass a plan with only Democratic support.
Biden and the 10 Republican senators have offered competing proposals that are far apart in terms of spending, with Biden’s plan totaling $1.9 trillion and the senators offering a slimmer $618 billion plan.
Among the differences in the two plans: The Republican plan pushed by Cassidy would send $1,000 checks to people earning less than $40,000 a year, phasing out completely at $50,000 a year. Biden’s plan would send $1,400 checks to people making up to $75,000 a year. The GOP plan doesn’t include aid for state and local governments, while Biden’s proposal sends them $350 billion. Biden’s plan includes more robust unemployment aid, at $400 additional a week, while the Republicans want a $300-a-week boost.
Democrats have already started the process of passing Biden’s plan through budget reconciliation, a procedure that would allow them to enact the legislation with 51 votes instead of 60.
“We think it would be better to have a bipartisan package as opposed to one that is rammed through,” said Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, adding later, “I don’t know if we’ll get it done at all.”
While Cassidy has for months supported sending billions in aid to state and local governments, the plan he is pushing now doesn’t include the money. Cassidy told reporters on a media call that aid for state governments isn’t politically feasible among Republicans. He pointed to the fact that California’s state budget features a $15 billion surplus this year.
Cassidy said it may be easier to win Republican support if the aid was targeted to local governments.
Louisiana’s state budget has faltered because of the pandemic, and cities like the tourism-dependent New Orleans have suffered a large share of the burden. Gov. John Bel Edwards’ administration estimates the shortfall for the upcoming budget year in Louisiana could reach as high as $962 million, a combination of losses in revenue and the loss of one-time federal aid lawmakers used to patch up the current year’s budget.
Cassidy said while there was no deal reached in a Monday meeting between the two sides at the White House, there was a “commitment to continue the discussion.” He highlighted the areas where the two sides agree, like on vaccine funding, but also said a $1.9 trillion plan wouldn’t be “fair to the American taxpayer,” unless Biden provides more justification for the line items.