Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, questioned the size of President Biden’s proposed $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package on Sunday, while both she and independent Sen. Angus King said the distribution of vaccines in the U.S. needs to be accelerated.

Collins and King were among a group of centrist members of Congress who met virtually on Sunday with a high-ranking member of the Biden administration to discuss ways that the president’s relief package can be tailored to better meet the needs of Americans as well as gain support from both political parties.

Both Republicans and Democrats took part in the Zoom call with Brian Deese, Biden’s National Economic Council director.

In a statement Sunday night, Collins questioned how the Biden administration came up with its $1.9 trillion figure.

“While I support prompt additional funding for vaccine production, distribution, and vaccinators, and for testing, it seems premature to be considering a package of this size and scope,” she said. “Less than a month ago, President Trump signed into law a $900 billion COVID relief package that our bipartisan group played a key role in negotiating. This funding is in addition to the nearly $4 trillion that Congress had provided previously for COVID relief. It appears that approximately $1.8 trillion of that money has yet to be spent.”

Collins added: “Moving forward, I want our bipartisan, bicameral group to get together to determine if we can come up with a more targeted package that would address unmet needs that we are experiencing now as we fight this persistent pandemic.”


Collins also raised the issue that rural hospitals need more financial assistance for vaccine distribution. She also expressed concern that the additional $1,400 stimulus checks proposed by Biden are not well targeted to those who would need them the most.

King expressed appreciation for the tone of Sunday’s meeting.

“Today’s meeting was a cordial, bipartisan conversation focused on identifying the best policies to support the American people during this crisis, which is notable and important on its own,” King said in a statement Sunday night. “I was pleased that there was an absolute consensus on the need to accelerate the nation’s vaccination efforts and bolster our testing and tracing infrastructure. In the days ahead, we will continue to engage with the Administration in order to receive additional data, which will inform future vaccine distribution plans as well as any additional legislative action.”

Referring to Sunday’s Zoom call, King added: “Most importantly, people left politics out of the conversation and focused on the substance. In fact, if an outside observer was listening to this call, I don’t think they would have been able to identify the participants’ party affiliations. We’ve got a ways to go, but this was a strong first step in the right direction.”

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