Susan Collins Dismisses Biden's COVID Stimulus Bill, in Blow to Democrats

Republican lawmaker Susan Collins has dismissed President Joe Biden's $1.9 billion proposed COVID-19 stimulus package, in another blow to a bill Democrats were keen to pass during the first week of February.

The president, who was inaugurated on Wednesday, is looking to pass additional relief to support American workers and families amid the pandemic. The Biden administration plans to offer $1,400 stimulus checks for most Americans; higher federal unemployment benefits; aid for states and schools; and additional funds for testing and vaccine distribution, as part of the stimulus.

Collins, senator for Maine, said on Friday that the bill was "premature" given that Congress passed a separate $900 billion economic relief package in December.

"We just passed $900 billion worth of assistance; why we would have a package that big now? Maybe a couple of months from now the needs will be evident and we will need to do something significant. But I'm not seeing it right now," she told Business Insider.

Her objection to the bill will pose a problem for the Biden administration, which has narrow control of Congress and the Senate. If Collins doesn't come on board, it may be difficult for Democrats to get the 60 votes required for the bill to pass in the Senate, as at least 10 Republicans would need to back the bill.

Biden will need to appease the progressives and centrists in his own party and woo lawmakers across the political aisle. If he fails to reach the vote threshold, Democrats will have to re-think their plan — some have suggested they could go through the so-called budget reconciliation process, which would need a slimmer majority to pass.

On Thursday, Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said the lower chamber would be "completely ready" to pass the $1.9 trillion bill by February 1.

"It is what the people need, what the country needs to crush the virus, put money in the pockets of the American people and honor our heroes," Pelosi added.

Democrats are speaking to Republicans to build support for the stimulus package.

"I had a pretty good walkthrough of their COVID proposal," Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, whose support is likely to be crucial, told reporters earlier this week. "It was an opportunity for me to ask some questions."

But Murkoski and Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, who both played an instrumental role in talks on the previous stimulus, have been skeptical about the additional spending.

Biden plans to take executive action on Friday to provide a stopgap measure of financial relief for Americans while Congress considers the larger package. The executive orders will increase food aid, protect unemployed job seekers and allow federal works and contractors to get a $15 hourly minimum wage.

Senator Susan Collins speaks
Senator Susan Collins speaks during the confirmation hearing for Director of National Intelligence nominee Avril Haines before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill January 19, 2021 in Washington, D.C. Collins has dismissed President Joe Biden’s $1.9 billion Covid-19 stimulus package, in another blow to the bill that the Democrats look to vote through during the first week of February. Melina Mara/Getty