As Stimulus Advances, GOP Denounces 'Partisan' Reconciliation Process

Republican lawmakers are denouncing a lack of bipartisanship as congressional committees advance sections of a reconciliation bill for COVID-19 relief.

Congress passed a budget resolution last week and committees are now putting together specific measures to go into the final bill.

While President Joe Biden has called for relief to be carried out in a bipartisan manner, using reconciliation would allow Democrats to push through their plans without Republican support.

As committees pass their sections, GOP lawmakers have criticized the process.

"Last year, Republicans and Democrats came together in a bipartisan fashion to deliver five timely and targeted support packages for the American people," House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (CA) said in a statement on Wednesday.

"Despite pledges of 'unity' in his inaugural address, President Biden is only working with Democrats to push a $2 trillion stimulus package. In the House, committees are at work this week jamming through this partisan bill."

After the House Education and Labor committee advanced its section, which includes boosting the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, the committee's Republican leader Rep. Virginia Foxx branded the process a "sham."

"By advancing this partisan wish list disguised as COVID-19 relief using a sham process, Democrats are using Americans' struggles to score cheap political points and prop up their failed liberal policies," said the North Carolina congresswoman.

Rep. Glenn Thompson of Pennsylvania, a Republican on the House Committee on Agriculture, also criticized Democrats, suggesting there was never any intention for bipartisanship after his committee moved forward with its section of the bill.

"House Democrats made it explicitly clear today there was never any intention to reach across the aisle and that the collective voice of rural America would be silenced," Thompson said in a statement.

"In one breath, the chairman and his members praised our amendments, and in the next, they voted against them. They love our ideas and think they are necessary to protect families and the vulnerable from COVID—just not enough to upset Speaker Pelosi's budget power grab."

Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas, the top Republican on the tax-writing Ways and Means committee, recently called on Democrats to "put down their partisan gloves, roll up their sleeves and work with Republicans."

Meanwhile, Republicans on three House committees not included in the reconciliation process have written to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and McCarthy to question the omission.

"Bipartisan cooperation is more important than ever to address the American people's needs in the wake of the global COVID-19 pandemic," said the letter from members of the Foreign Affairs, Natural Resources, and Science, Space and Technology committees.

"This unprecedented crisis demands no less than our full attention and the commitment to work collaboratively across the aisle.

"Therefore, we were incredibly disappointed to learn that, in spite of President Biden's clear desire to pursue a bipartisan COVID-19 relief package, Democrats are instead moving forward with a rushed, partisan process that will take the unprecedented action of circumventing standard markups in each of our respective committees."

Biden announced details of his $1.9 trillion stimulus plan last month. Republicans balked at the topline figure and the president met with a group of GOP senators who proposed a scaled-back relief package they said could win bipartisan support.

Biden has said that although he wants to work in a bipartisan manner, he also wants to move swiftly. "We don't have a second to waste when it comes to delivering the American people the relief they desperately need," the president tweeted on Monday.

"I'm calling on Congress to act quickly and pass the American Rescue Plan."

Newsweek has contacted the White House and the lawmakers mentioned for comment.

kevin mccarthy at news conference
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy at his weekly press conference on January 21. He has criticized the process surrounding the budget reconciliation bill. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images