Biden Economic Advisers Won’t Weigh In On GOP COVID Relief Counter Offer Just Yet

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 22: National Economic Council Director Brian Deese speaks during a White House news briefing, conducted by White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, at the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the... WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 22: National Economic Council Director Brian Deese speaks during a White House news briefing, conducted by White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, at the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House January 22, 2021 in Washington, DC. Psaki and Deese discussed various topics including the economic crisis that was caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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January 31, 2021 1:37 p.m.
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National Economic Council Director Brian Deese and top Biden economic adviser Jared Bernstein on Sunday wouldn’t offer their two cents on a new COVID-19 relief counterproposal by 10 Republican senators, but reiterated the President’s urgency on delivering relief to the public as the country reels from more than 420,000 deaths thus far from the novel coronavirus.

Shortly before the top Biden economic advisers made their Sunday morning appearances, a group of 10 Republican senators urged Biden in a letter on Sunday morning to support their COVID-19 relief counterproposal.

The Republican senators offered an approximately $600 billion COVID-19 relief package — an offer that falls short of Biden’s $1.9 trillion relief plan — and requested a meeting with the President to discuss it. The GOP senators’ call to Biden would bring the White House to the negotiation table as congressional Democrats eye budget reconciliation to pass COVID-19 relief legislation without any Republican votes.

The letter by Republican senators — which includes Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Mitt Romney (R-UT) and Rob Portman (R-OH) — tells Biden that they “welcome the opportunity to work with (the President) in a bipartisan manner” to address the COVID crisis.

“In the spirit of bipartisanship and unity, we have developed a Covid-19 relief framework that builds on prior Covid assistance laws, all of which passed with bipartisan support,” the Republican senators wrote to Biden.

On Friday, Biden told reporters that he supports passing COVID relief with support from Republicans “if we can get it, but the COVID relief has to pass — there’s no ifs, ands or buts.”

Biden economic advisers echoed the President’s messaging during their TV appearances on Sunday morning:

Brian Deese, Director of the National Economic Council

When asked on CNN whether the request by the group of Republican senators to meet with Biden to discuss their counterproposal will happen, Deese confirmed that the White House has received the letter and that it will “certainly will be reviewing it over the course of the day.”

Deese argued that the Biden administration’s “American Rescue Plan” was “calibrated to the economic crisis that we face” before adding that the President is “uncompromising” regarding the speed of passing COVID-19 relief.

“We’re certainly open to input from anywhere where we can find a constructive idea to make this package as effective as possible,” Deese said. “But the President is uncompromising when it comes to the speed that we need to act at to address this crisis.”

Asked if the Biden administration is willing to negotiate the total of the relief package, Deese reiterated that the President is open to “welcoming input” that may address any gaps.

“We put a plan forward that is based on the bottom-up assessment of the objective need. So, we welcome input to say where we may have not gotten everything right, where we could be more effective,” Deese said. “Certainly, that’s part of the process as we go forward.”

Deese stressed that the focus should be focus on getting the economy back on track and figuring out the resources necessary to do so during this “moment of crisis.”

“In moments of crisis, we have heard from the top economic advisers from President Bush, President Trump, economists across the board, saying the cost of doing too little right now far outweighs the cost of doing too much,” Deese said. “That is the theory behind the President’s plan.”

Jared Bernstein, White House Council of Economic Advisers member

Bernstein offered a similar take on Fox News Sunday as he reiterated Biden’s willingness to negotiate, but also hesitated to directly comment on aspects of the Republican senators’ COVID-19 counterproposal.

Bernstein said that the Biden administration is “glad to hear from this letter that they’re on board, but we need to learn a lot more about it” before going on to echo the President’s urgency in delivering relief to the public.

“Right now we’re in a position where delay and inaction are the enemy of moving forward,” Bernstein said.

Asked whether Biden is willing to come down on the $1.9 trillion, Bernstein doubled down on his earlier statement on Biden’s willingness to “negotiate with those on the other side of the aisle about getting this plan out as quickly as possible.”

Key Coronavirus Crisis Links

TPM’s COVID-19 hub.
Josh Marshall’s Twitter List of Trusted Experts (Epidemiologists, Researchers, Clinicians, Journalists, Government Agencies) providing reliable real-time information on the COVID-19 Crisis.
COVID-19 Tracking Project (updated data on testing and infections in the U.S.).
Johns Hopkins Global COVID-19 Survey (most up to date numbers globally and for countries around the world).
Worldometers.info (extensive source of information and data visualizations on COVID-19 Crisis — discussion of data here).
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