Kudos to U.S. Sen. Todd Young of Indiana, who was among 10 Republicans who developed a $600 billion COVID-19 relief plan and presented it to President Joe Biden at a White House meeting this week.
The president reportedly told the group their proposal was “way too small” and that a big problem like the pandemic needs a big solution. But Biden might not have been as intransigent as those sentiments make him sound.
Young told The Indianapolis Star that the tone of the White House meeting was “respectful.”
“I think we found some common ground in some areas, and there are other areas that remain open to negotiation,” IndyStar quotes him saying. Young told reporter Kaitlin Lange that further negotiations “at the staff level” have begun.
Still, there’s a huge gap between the GOP plan and Biden’s relief proposal.
Biden has proposed a $1.9 trillion plan that includes $1,400 stimulus checks, a $15 national minimum wage, $130 billion to reopen schools and $350 billion to help state and local governments cover deficits caused by reduced revenue and higher spending.
Republicans have said that’s too expensive. They are particularly reticent to send additional payments to state and local governments, which have received $150 billion in direct aid from previous stimulus packages.
The GOP plan includes $1,000 stimulus checks (plus $500 for dependents), no minimum wage hike, $20 billion to reopen schools, and no cash for state and local governments.
Both plans allocate $160 billion to vaccinations, testing and other COVID-related health care expenses.
It’s not hard to make an argument for either plan, although we much prefer the Republicans’ version. We don’t think a COVID-relief bill is the place to tuck a huge increase in the minimum wage. Neither do we think state and local governments need such a huge infusion. (Maybe that’s because we live in Indiana, where Gov. Eric Holcomb’s team has crafted a two-year spending plan that increases spending on K-12 and post-secondary education and is projected to grow the state’s reserves.)
But our primary point here is not so much about the details of the plans as it is about the conversation. At a time when the country—and many of our leaders—appear to be incredibly divided, we appreciate the effort by Young and his GOP colleagues to craft a proposal they could take to the president. And we appreciate that Biden listened.
Is there a middle ground between the GOP and the Biden plans? Of course. Will the two sides find it? Maybe not.
Biden might not need to compromise significantly. Through a procedural move called reconciliation, the Senate can likely avoid the filibuster and pass a plan with a simple majority vote. That matters when the Senate has 50 Republicans and 50 Democrats, with the vice president casting the deciding vote.
But the effort by both sides to at least try talking is laudable. And we’re proud that Young is a part of making it happen.•
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