Congressional Democrats are preparing to leave Republicans behind as they push forward with another COVID-19 relief bill.
With a 50/50 party split in the Senate, congressional Democrats have spent the past week discussing using a budget reconciliation bill to pass their COVID-19 relief with just a simple majority. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) affirmed in a Thursday press conference that Democrats would pass the reconciliation "if we need it" — but some centrist Republicans reportedly aren't thrilled.
As Punchbowl News reported Thursday morning, "there's frustration on the Republican side" of the so-called "Sweet 16" of bipartisan centrist senators with this plan. These centrists — namely Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) — "say Democrats are moving way too quickly toward budget reconciliation, which they take as a signal that Democrats have no interest in the GOP’s support," sources tell Punchbowl News. Murkowski publicly said Wednesday that it would be "wise" for President Biden "to work to try to get a bipartisan proposal," especially given his Inauguration Day comments regarding "unity and working together."
But as Democrats see it, there's no time to waste. COVID-19 continues to spread rampantly across the U.S., vaccine distribution is lagging, and millions of Americans are still out of work. There's also slim chance Republicans will agree to more than a $500 billion relief bill, while Biden is pushing for a $1.9 trillion package and soon-to-be Budget Committee Chair Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) wants to toss a $15/hour minimum wage into the mix.