Republican senators push back after Biden says they didn't move an 'inch' on COVID relief

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A group of 10 Republican senators pushed back Wednesday evening against President Biden’s comments that they refused to move an “inch” off their initial coronavirus relief offer from earlier this year.

The public back-and-forth threatens to strain the already tenuous relationship between Mr. Biden and congressional Republicans – in particular the more moderate members who have indicated they’re open to working with the White House on certain issues.

The senators, led by Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, said their $618 billion proposal from earlier this year was a “first offer” designed to open up bipartisan talks.

“The Administration roundly dismissed our effort as wholly inadequate in order to justify its go-it-alone strategy,” they said.

They pointed out that they included an identical amount of funding as the White House — $160 billion – for vaccines and testing and said they later upped their ante to $650 billion to increase the size of the direct stimulus payments.

“Fewer than 24 hours after our meeting in the Oval Office, the Senate Democratic Leader began the process of triggering reconciliation which precluded Republican participation and allowed for the package to pass without a single Republican vote,” they said.

In the end, congressional Democrats kept Mr. Biden‘s initial $1.9 trillion vision largely intact.

Earlier Wednesday, Mr. Biden said the Republican group started out at $600 billion “and that was it.”

He said if they came closer to his $1.9 trillion price tag with a package that included his core priorities, he would have been prepared to compromise.

“But they didn’t. They didn’t move an inch — not an inch,” he said.

Mr. Biden did predict bipartisan support for certain priorities, pointing to support across party lines for improving supply chains for semiconductor chips.

“There are things we’re working on together, some of which we’ve passed and some we will pass,” he said.

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