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AOC, Schumer ‘welcome’ GOP support for $1.9T COVID relief bill, as long as it stays same

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Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Monday argued that the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill that’s being rammed through Congress without Republican input can still be considered “bipartisan.”

The New York Democrats insisted that they “welcome bipartisan support” for the bill — but only so long as it is the big-spending bill that they are pushing through Congress, with no major changes.

“We welcome bipartisan support. In fact, there is bipartisan support in the very real sense that over 50 percent of Republicans are for this bill and all its parts. If our Republican congressmen and our Republican senators don’t want to go along, the needs of the people supersede that,” Schumer said in response to a Post question at an event in Queens.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Chuck Schumer speak to the media on February 8, 2021.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Chuck Schumer speak to the media on February 8, 2021.
Dennis A. Clark

The duo also claimed some Republican voters support policies in the package that would give $1,400 checks to most adults, even if legislators don’t, although they offered no examples. The bill being pushed is being drafted by committees after preliminary votes last week.

“There are so many needs in so many ways — get the schools open safety, help the unemployed, help the small businesses, help the nonprofits, make sure that people get checks. All of these things are so important,” Schumer said. “We hope that we can go forward with our Republican colleagues but if we can’t, we are obligated. Our obligation to the nation requires us to move forward.”

President Biden and Democrats are drawing sharp criticism from Republican elected officials and others for touting national unity and bipartisanship last month, only to forge ahead without brokering a grand deal. Many Republicans are wary of a large spending package, citing the national debt and arguing the focus should be on ending the pandemic and returning people to work.

Ocasio-Cortez, a self-avowed socialist who represents parts of the Bronx and Queens, said at the Monday press conference: “We welcome bipartisan support and there is bipartisan support for this bill among everyday working people, including half of Republicans.”

The leftist “Squad” leader said that “the choice is in the Republican conference if they want to actually reflect that support among actual Republicans throughout the country. But our No. 1 priority is to help people. Our No. 1 priority is to give people the help that they need, to get them stimulus checks, to get them expanded access to health care, to protect their housing.

The stimulus bill is being pushed through Congress under a special budget reconciliation process that requires only a majority vote in each chamber, avoiding the usual 60-vote super-majority threshold in the Senate to avoid a filibuster. Democrats hold 50 Senate seats and ties are broken by Vice President Kamala Harris.

The Senate held an all-night preliminary “vote-a-rama” on Thursday and Friday to give committees instructions on writing the bill. Three Republican amendments gained bipartisan support — including to oppose Biden’s decision to kill the Keystone XL oil pipeline — but were stripped from the final product in a party-line amendment offered by Schumer.

Biden met last Monday with a group of 10 Republican senators who proposed a $600 billion counter-offer. But he said Friday in a speech at the White House that he’s OK with moving ahead without any Republicans.

Biden said: “If I have to choose between getting help right now to Americans who are hurting so badly and getting bogged down in a lengthy negotiation or compromising on a bill that’s — that’s up to the crisis, that’s an easy choice. I’m going to help the American people who are hurting now.”

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