Sen. Mitt Romney called his two-hour meeting with President Joe Biden on Monday evening “quite impressive,” but he says the two sides are still very far apart on the size and scope of another COVID-19 relief package from the federal government. In an exclusive interview on the “Utah Politics” podcast, Romney said he hopes that Republicans in Congress can find common ground with the new Biden administration, but he knows that any agreement will be hard to come by.
“At one point he (President Biden) was asked about bipartisanship. He said, you know, the key to bipartisanship isn’t having two parties come together and agree on everything. We are, after all, Democrats and Republicans and we have different points of view,” Romney recounted from his meeting.
“Right now, the Democrats don’t need us (Republicans) because they have the House, the Senate and the White House. They can push through whatever the heck they want without a single Republican vote. So this is a difficult time to see if we can reach a compromise,” he added.
Democrats are proposing a $1.9 trillion relief package, while Republicans are proposing a slimmed-down $618 billion bill. Romney says he disagrees with the plan to provide billions in aid to state and local governments that have suffered financial harm from the pandemic, instead favoring a more targeted approach. Romney also says he’d rather provide money to continue the Paycheck Protection Program instead of the Democratic plan to provide loans to businesses. He also disagrees with the president’s plan to provide additional funding for schools since the federal government has already provided more than $100 billion in that area.
Democrats in the House and Senate are signaling they’re prepared to use budget reconciliation to bypass a likely Republican filibuster in the Senate, meaning they would only need 50 votes instead of 60 to win approval. That’s the same process Republicans used to pass the Trump tax cuts in 2017.
“There’s no question that if you begin doing things which break precedent or break tradition, the other side is going to do that when they’re in charge,” says Romney. “When we’ve put a tax program on that basis that did not require any Democrat votes through reconciliation, we have a difficult time explaining why we’re not happy with what they would be doing at this stage.”
Romney added it’s disingenuous for Republicans to raise concerns about the deficit considering their track record from the last four years.
“When we had a Republican president and House and Senate, we kept on spending massively and adding almost a trillion dollars a year to the national debt. Now we say this is outrageous adding so much to the debt? They say we did the same thing when we were in charge. It does show that you have to be consistent in your arguments,” said Romney.
Romney does say it would be better if Democrats worked with Republicans on a relief bill for the simple reason that reconciliation is a lengthy process that could take until March of this year.
“If we worked on a bipartisan basis, we could get a program out this week,” said Romney.
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