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WASHINGTON, Jan 25 – Members of President Joe Biden’s Administration tried on Sunday to dispel Republicans’ notion that the $1.9 trillion pandemic aid package is too expensive in a meeting with Republican lawmakers and Democrats, some of whom lobbied to cut the plan’s budget and focus it on vaccine distribution.
Lawmakers from both parties said they agreed that the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine to Americans should be a priority, but some Republicans opposed such a large amount of money only a month after Congress passed a aid project of 900,000 million dollars.
“It seems premature to consider a package of this size and scope,” said Republican Senator Susan Collins, who participated in the call with Brian Deese, director of the White House National Economic Council, and other top Biden aides.
Collins added that he agreed that additional funding was needed for vaccine distribution, but on a “more limited” bill, and that he planned to discuss such an initiative with other lawmakers.
Senator Dick Durbin, the second Senate Democrat, said the call made it clear that controlling the spread of the pandemic is Biden’s top priority.
“We can’t wait,” White House Deputy Chief Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters. “Just because Washington has gotten stuck before doesn’t mean it has to stay stuck.”
The White House did not provide a transcript of the call, but Jared Bernstein, a member of Biden’s Council of Economic Advisers, later told CNN that the $ 900 billion in aid approved at the end of 2020 would only help for “a month or two. “.
The COVID-19 pandemic has killed more than 417,000 Americans, has put millions of people out of work and infected more than 175,000 Americans a day. (Graphic: https://tmsnrt.rs/34pvUyi)
Biden, who took office Wednesday, campaigned on the promise of aggressive action against the pandemic.
The Trump Administration fell far behind in its goal of vaccinating 20 million Americans by the end of 2020 and left no plans on how to distribute the vaccine, White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain said Sunday.
Although Congress has already authorized $ 4 trillion in response to the pandemic, the White House maintains that the additional $ 1.9 trillion is needed to cover the costs of responding to the virus and provide higher unemployment benefits and payments to households.
(Information by Susan Cornwell, Andrea Shalal, Patricia Zengerle and Doina Chiacu; written by Doina Chiacu and Patricia Zengerle; edited by Lisa Shumaker, Michelle Price and Peter Cooney; translation by Jorge Martínez)
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