The latest on the Biden presidency

By Meg Wagner, Melissa Mahtani, Mike Hayes and Melissa Macaya, CNN

Updated 8:06 PM ET, Mon February 1, 2021
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7:40 p.m. ET, February 1, 2021

Senate Democrats will unveil their budget resolution tomorrow

From CNN's Lauren Fox 

Following the House’s unveiling of their own budget resolution this afternoon, Democrats in the Senate will unveil their budget resolution tomorrow.

A memo being circulated by the Senate Budget Committee tonight lays out the framework and rational for Democrats beginning their budget reconciliation process, a procedural tool that will allow them to pass President Biden’s Covid relief plan with a simple majority.

The memo comes after a group of Senate Republicans met in the Oval Office with Biden for more than an hour.

“The Budget Resolution that the Senate will be debating this week will enable us to fast track President Biden’s $1.9 trillion emergency COVID-relief through reconciliation with 51 votes,” the memo reads. 

The resolution outlined provides Senate Committees with nearly $1.9 billion to use to craft a Covid relief bill. Senate Budget will direct 11 Senate Committees to begin working on the bill including:

  • Agriculture
  • Finance
  • Banking
  • HELP
  • Commerce
  • EPW                       
  • Homeland Security
  • Indian Affairs
  • Foreign Relations
  • Veterans
  • Small Business

The Budget Committee plans to stay very close to what Biden proposed, promising to try and raise the minimum wage to $15 using reconciliation, expanding testing and tracing, vaccine distribution, providing more money for SNAP, funding for schools and providing direct $1,400 checks to individuals.

“The American people want us to act boldly and they want us to act now. Instead of listening to wealthy campaign contributors, it is time for the Senate to listen to the needs of working families, the elderly, the sick, the disabled and the poor. And that is exactly what this Budget Resolution will accomplish,” the memo says.

 

7:54 p.m. ET, February 1, 2021

No stimulus deal reached with White House, GOP senators say

From CNN's Josiah Ryan

Evan Vucci/AP
Evan Vucci/AP

Republican senators who met with President Biden today in the Oval Office emerged from the meeting saying no Covid-19 stimulus deal had been reached, but offered hope that an agreement could be on the horizon.

"I wouldn't say that we came together on a package tonight," said Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who initially called the meeting. "No one expected that in a two hour meeting, but what we did agree to do is to follow up and talk further at the staff level and amongst ourselves, and with the President and Vice President on how we can continue to work together on this very important issue."

GOP Sens. Collins, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mitt Romney of Utah and Rob Portman of Ohio were among the senators who met with Biden today discuss their stimulus plan which places greater emphasis on the health effects of the crisis, including expanding funds for a vaccine rollout.

It limits direct payments to Americans and does not include assistance to states and localities, which Democrats have insisted upon as part of any relief measure.

Collins said the senators are "very appreciative" that in Biden's "first official meeting in the Oval Office," he chose to "spend so much time with us in a frank and very useful discussion."

"It was an excellent meeting," said Collins. "...I am hopeful that we can once again, pass a sixth bipartisan Covid relief package."

Here’s a look at the key differences between Biden's proposal and the GOP plan.

See more:

7:36 p.m. ET, February 1, 2021

GOP Sen. Collins calls Biden meeting on Covid relief "a very good exchange of views"

From CNN's Dana Bash, Lauren Fox, Ali Zaslav, Devan Cole and Daniella Diaz

Pool
Pool

Republican senators who met with President Biden today in the Oval Office spoke to the press from the White House driveway stakeout following the meeting.

Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins said the group of GOP senators had a “very productive, cordial two hour meeting with the President and Vice President” to “discuss the next steps on the Covid relief package.”

"We outlined for the President the provisions that we have proposed as part of an approximately $600 billion package. He explained in more depth areas that were not fleshed out as much in the package, the $1.9 trillion package, and it was a very good exchange of views," Collins of Maine told reporters. "I wouldn't say that we came together on a package tonight. No one expected that in a two hour meeting."

In comparison to Biden's proposal, the GOP plan places more emphasis on the health effects of the crisis, including expanding funds for a vaccine rollout. It limits direct payments to Americans and does not include assistance to states and localities, which Democrats have insisted upon as part of any relief measure.

The lawmakers, including Collins, Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah and Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, told Biden in a letter that they devised the plan "in the spirit of bipartisanship and unity" that the President has urged.

Nine of the GOP senators who signed the letter attended today's White House meeting in person, and Sen. Mike Rounds of South Dakota participated in the meeting over the phone, according to the pool. 

More on today's meeting: The chances that Biden's meeting with the 10 Republican senators changes the final trajectory of Biden's  $1.9 trillion package are slim.

But the effort underscores the tension Biden is facing between the Washington he once knew as a US senator and the one he is returning to as President. Biden is taking the meeting, and in many ways, there is no other choice for a President who built his campaign on uniting the country and compromise.

Biden's team — and Biden himself — have made it clear that they can be flexible in some places, but the roughly $600 billion Republican plan is a drop in the bucket compared to where they want to go. 

6:49 p.m. ET, February 1, 2021

These are some of the differences in the Biden and GOP stimulus proposals

From CNN's Tami Luhby and Katie Lobosco

Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images
Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

President Biden and a group of 10 Republican senators have very different ideas for the next coronavirus relief bill.

The President outlined a $1.9 trillion package last month that included a wide range of immediate assistance for struggling families, such as $1,400 stimulus checks and extended unemployment, nutrition and eviction aid, and longer-term changes, such as a $15 hourly minimum wage.

But the measure immediately ran into resistance from Republicans on Capitol Hill. In response, a group of 10 senators on Sunday released their own roughly $618 billion relief proposal – less than one-third the size of the President's. They provided a chart detailing the cost of their plan on Monday morning.

Here are some of the key differences:

Stimulus payments:

  • Biden's plan plan calls for sending another $1,400 per person to eligible recipients. This money would be in addition to the $600 payments that were approved by Congress in December – for a total of $2,000.
  • GOP senators want to send $1,000 checks, per adult, but target them to those with lower incomes. The amount would begin phasing out at $40,000 for individuals and $80,000 for couples filing jointly. The upper cap would be $50,000 for individuals and $100,000 for couples. Dependent adults and children would receive $500.

Unemployment Benefits:

  • Biden's plan would increase the federal boost the jobless receive to $400 a week, from the $300 weekly enhancement contained in Congress' relief package from December. He would also extend the payments, along with two key pandemic unemployment programs, through September. 
  • The GOP proposal would extend the $300 a week benefit through June 30. It would also provide $2 billion to states to improve their technology.

Covid-19 vaccines, testing and tracing:

  • The President's plan calls for investing $20 billion in a national vaccination program, including launching community vaccination centers around the country and mobile units in hard-to-reach areas. Biden would also increase federal support to vaccinate Medicaid enrollees. The proposal would also invest $50 billion in testing, providing funds to purchase rapid tests, expand lab capacity and help schools implement regular testing to support reopening. It would also fund the hiring of 100,000 public health workers, nearly tripling the community health workforce.
  • The Republicans' proposal calls for providing the same amount to battle the pandemic. It would fund a National Vaccine Program, expansion of testing, a disaster relief fund and personal protective equipment for first responders, independent physician offices and dentists. It would also provide $15 billion to replenish the National Strategic Stockpile and inject $35 billion to the provider relief fund, which reimburses hospitals and health care providers for coronavirus-related expenses and revenue losses.

School reopening:

  • The President would provide an additional $170 billion to K-12 schools, colleges and universities to help them reopen and operate safely or to facilitate remote learning. Congress approved $82 billion in aid for schools in December.
  • The Republicans would provide $20 billion for getting K-12 students back to school.

The senators are scheduled to meet with Biden on Monday afternoon to discuss their plan. You can read more details about both plans here.

5:58 p.m. ET, February 1, 2021

Happening now: Biden meets with GOP senators to discuss Covid relief

From CNN's Kevin Liptak, Lauren Fox, Jason Hoffman and Paul LeBlanc

Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images
Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

President Biden is meeting now in the Oval Office with a group of Republican senators who have proposed a drastically slimmer coronavirus relief package than the $1.9 trillion measure he is offering.

The White House meeting with the 10 GOP senators, led by moderate Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, is Biden's first publicly disclosed Oval Office session with lawmakers since taking office last month.

Biden, with Vice President Kamala Harris sitting on his right side, thanked everyone for coming down to the White House and said he was anxious to talk. He joked that he felt like he was back in the Senate which he liked the best of anything he’s done.

Reporters were ushered out of the Oval Office and Biden did not respond to a shouted question about when he wants to see movement on the stimulus package.

The other invited participants in the meeting are GOP Sens. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Mitt Romney of Utah, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Rob Portman of Ohio, Todd Young of Indiana, Jerry Moran of Kansas, Mike Rounds of South Dakota and Thom Tillis of North Carolina.

The Republicans' plan places more emphasis on the health effects of the crisis, including expanding funds for a vaccine rollout. It limits direct payments to Americans and does not include assistance to states and localities, which Democrats have insisted upon as part of any relief measure.

According to a summary of the plan obtained by CNN, it is estimated to cost $618 billion. The GOP proposal also includes:

  • $160 billion for vaccines, testing and treatment for coronavirus
  • $4 billion for behavioral health and substance abuse treatment
  • $50 billion for small businesses
  • $132 billion for unemployment insurance through June
  • $220 billion in additional direct payments
  • $20 billion for child care
  • $20 billion for schools

One thing it does not include: state and local funding that is a must-have for Democrats.

Some more background: The Biden administration is facing a crucial test this week. In addition to the President's meeting, Democrats are beginning the reconciliation process to potentially pass legislation on their own, which could potentially poison the well for a bipartisan deal.

Many Democrats in Congress believe entertaining Republican counteroffers is merely putting off the inevitable, and would like Biden to proceed quickly to using reconciliation to pass a bill with only a 51-vote majority.

Budget reconciliation is a rare procedural tactic that can be used to advance bills in the Senate with a simple majority rather than the 60 vote threshold that is typically required for breaking filibusters and moving legislation forward.

In the current Senate, Democrats control 50 seats along with Vice President Kamala Harris' tie-breaking vote. As a result, the party can pass a range of budget reconciliation bills with their slim 51 vote majority.

See more:

5:27 p.m. ET, February 1, 2021

Leading Senate Democrat calls for a confirmation hearing for Biden's pick for attorney general

From CNN's Ali Zaslav 

Incoming Senate Judiciary Chair Majority Whip Dick Durbin asked GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham, the current Senate Judiciary chair, to proceed to a confirmation hearing for President Biden’s Attorney General nominee Merrick Garland on Feb. 8.

“I find it regrettable that we have been unable to reach agreement on a timeline for processing this nomination. While I remain committed to working with you and Senator Grassley, the Committee’s incoming Ranking Member, to find bipartisan consensus on timing, there is simply no justification for delaying Judge Garland’s hearing any further,” Durbin wrote in a letter to Graham.

 He added that, “to delay Judge Garland’s hearing jeopardizes our national security.”

Graham is still the chair of the committee until the new Senate organizing resolution is passed.

4:48 p.m. ET, February 1, 2021

More Trump attorneys could be added before his impeachment trial starts

From CNN's Jim Acosta

A Trump adviser said more attorneys may be added to the former president's legal team in the coming days before his impeachment trial starts.

The adviser said there is no timetable on making that announcement yet.

A separate adviser said Donald Trump is still obsessed with the false conspiracy theory that the election was stolen from him.

"He just wants the world to know the election was stolen from him," the adviser said.

A GOP congressional source said many Republicans in the Senate would rather Trump steer clear of his election lies. "Especially after January 6th," the source said.

Some background: Trump's office announced that David Schoen and Bruce L. Castor, Jr. will now head the legal team for his second impeachment trial, a day after CNN first reported that five members of his defense left and his team effectively collapsed.

One point of friction with his previous team was Trump wanted the attorneys to focus on his election fraud claims rather than the constitutionality of convicting a former president.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins, Pamela Brown and Katelyn Polantz contributed reporting to this post. 

4:46 p.m. ET, February 1, 2021

It would be a "disservice" to Trump's legal effort to argue the election was stolen, top GOP senator says

From CNN's Manu Raju and Ali Main 

Sen. John Cornyn, a member of the Senate GOP leadership, told CNN it would be a "disservice" for former President Donald Trump's legal team to focus on Trump's baseless claim that the election was "stolen."

Asked how an argument about the election being stolen would affect his thinking, Cornyn said: 

"Well, it's really not material. The articles of impeachment are like an indictment in a criminal case, so that would be the issue before the Senate. As much as there might be a temptation to bring in other matters, I think it would be a disservice to the President's own defense to get bogged down in things that really aren't before the Senate."

Cornyn was also asked about Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, and whether he thinks any action should be taken against her. He said: "I'm only vaguely familiar with what she's been saying and doing and I leave that up to our House colleagues. They usually don't like advice from senators."

Told that senators still often give advice to the House, Cornyn said with a laugh: "I'm showing some great restraint." And he got into an elevator.

Greene, a freshman from Georgia, repeatedly indicated support for executing prominent Democratic politicians in 2018 and 2019 before being elected to Congress, a CNN KFile review of hundreds of posts and comments from Greene's Facebook page shows.

4:14 p.m. ET, February 1, 2021

Biden's acting solicitor general asks Supreme Court to delay case over border wall funding

From CNN’s Ariane De Vogue

President Biden’s acting solicitor general asked the Supreme Court on Monday to remove a significant case concerning funding for former President Donald Trump’s border wall from the court’s calendar citing Biden’s recent proclamation barring American taxpayer dollars from being diverted to construct a border wall. 

The justices were scheduled to hear arguments in the case on Feb. 22. 

In the latest filing from acting Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar, the government told the justices that Biden has directed a “pause in construction” so that the government can undertake an assessment “of the legality of the funding and contracting methods used to construct the wall.” 

Lawyers for the ACLU praised the filing. 

“It’s a good start that the Biden administration is not rushing to defend Trump’s illegal wall in court, but just hitting the brakes isn’t enough. Trump’s wall devastated border communities, the environment, and tribal sites,” said Dror Ladin, senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s National Security Project. “It’s time for the Biden administration to step up for border communities, and commit to mitigating environmental damage and tearing down the wall.”