The White House on Thursday denied a media report that it could split President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief proposal into two bills, as part of a strategy to get the divided Senate to quickly pass some aid for Americans.
Biden has made ramping up the US response to the Covid-19 pandemic, which has killed nearly 430,000 people in the United States and left millions out of work, a major focus of his first week in office. But Republicans and some Democrats have balked at the cost of his proposal, which is on top of $4 trillion in aid approved by Congress last year.
With the Senate split 50-50, the misgivings have stirred speculation the White House could propose a two-pronged strategy, beginning with a bill small enough to garner enough Republican support to clear the Senate's 60-vote threshold for most legislation.
Politico reported the administration was considering a bill that would provide $600 billion to $800 billion in aid, including scaled-back funding for vaccine distribution, unemployment and food assistance as well as relief checks targeted for those in need.
Democrats are also moving ahead with plans to use a parliamentary procedure called reconciliation, which would allow them to enact much of Biden's proposal by a simple majority in the Senate - without Republican votes. Vice President Kamala Harris would break any tie vote in the Senate.
But two senior White House officials moved quickly on Thursday to shoot down the idea of a split approach.
"The needs of the American people aren't partial; we can't do this piecemeal," White House economic adviser Brian Deese, who has been involved in talks with a bipartisan group of lawmakers in the Senate and House of Representatives, said on Twitter.
White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said there is nothing partisan about aiding Americans and businesses reeling from the pandemic.
"The needs of the American people are urgent from putting food on the table, to getting vaccines out the door to reopening schools. Those aren't partisan issues," Psaki said on Twitter.
"We are engaging with a range of voices - that's democracy in action - we aren't looking to split a package in two."