A bipartisan group of senators who successfully pushed for a second coronavirus aid bill last year will meet on Wednesday as they weigh whether to wade into another thorny topic, such as immigration or the minimum wage.
The group of 20, evenly split between Republicans and Democrats, was formed to push Congress to pass a $900 billion pandemic stimulus bill late last year. Its meeting this week comes as the House prepares to pass immigration bills that will further reinforce the Senate’s gridlock on that issue without some bipartisan framework to break the impasse.
“It’s something the group of 20 of us, 10 Republicans and 10 Democrats, will discuss tomorrow and decide whether we take this up. Or whether instead we focus on the minimum wage,” said Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) in an interview. “But there are places we can come together.”
Romney was among the 10 Republicans who met with President Joe Biden about coronavirus legislation this winter. Ultimately Democrats shunned the GOP’s entreaties as lowball offers, deciding to pass a $1.9 trillion stimulus bill with a party-line vote via budget reconciliation.
Another member of the bipartisan group who chafed at Democrats’ lack of interest in negotiating on a smaller Covid aid package, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), said Wednesday’s meeting is about the “road ahead.”
“We need to have a discussion about the exact role of this group,” Collins said.
The senatorial bloc also could wield its influence over a future infrastructure package that President Joe Biden and Democratic leaders have prioritized. But Democrats are actively searching for GOP partners to work on two more divisive issues, immigration and the minimum wage.
Senate Judiciary Chair Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said Monday he would begin discussions with Republicans on legislation aimed at protecting the immigrant population known as Dreamers and farm workers. And Biden and some centrist Democrats have said they are open to negotiating with Republicans on the minimum wage.