Capitol Report: Seafood processors, tourism get more money in stimulus package, in bid to reach Alaska Republican Sen. Murkowski

United States

As the Democratic-run Senate works toward passing a $ 1.9 trillion stimulus package by the weekend, last-minute changes to the COVID-19 aid bill include provisions that would help seafood processors, the tourism industry and states with lower populations such as Alaska.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki was asked Thursday if President Joe Biden signed off on those three changes — and if they’re aimed at winning over moderate Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

“I would say the majority of negotiations at this point are between senators themselves in Congress,” Psaki told reporters. “The president is engaged with members, as you know, who are here sometimes in the Oval Office, who he talks to on the phone. But I’m not going to outline any more particulars for you.”

See: Senate looks set to OK aid package by weekend, as Republican threatens to have bill read aloud

And read: ‘Wasteful,’ ‘poorly targeted’ — critics rip stimulus bill’s price tag, contents

A 50-50 Senate, with Democrats in control because Vice President Harris casts tie-breaking votes, has empowered the chamber’s moderates on both sides of the aisle. Biden on Wednesday agreed to stricter income limits for stimulus checks in the upcoming aid package, after moderate Democrats expressed concerns about money going to people who aren’t in dire need.

“I’m looking at some of the things that will provide a level of relief for a state like Alaska,” Murkowski told reporters on Capitol Hill on Thursday when asked about the American Rescue Plan Act.

She noted the House version of the stimulus bill had a formula for state and local relief that “was not very beneficial to a state like Alaska that has high revenue loss, low population.” She added that formula has been changed.

“I’ve been talking to people all week — you probably have noticed — about the situation in Alaska and trying to make sure that if we’re really going to move a measure like this … don’t we want to make sure that those who have been most negatively impacted are going to be able to see some relief?” Murkowski also said. “So trying to make, in my view, a bad deal work better.”

She said Alaska’s “tourist sector has been really significantly hit,” so she has been “looking at some opportunities to help address that sector,” as well as aid seafood processing facilities.

A CNN report on Thursday morning citing an anonymous source said an increase in a tourism set aside, more funding for seafood processors and a change giving more money to states with smaller populations were all tweaks designed for Murkowski.

Legislative text released Thursday afternoon by the office of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer says $ 4 billion appropriated for the secretary of agriculture should go toward “grants and loans for small or midsized food processors or distributors, seafood processing facilities and processing vessels, farmers markets, producers, or other organizations.” The House version of the legislation makes no specific mention of seafood processing.

The Senate text also says that of $ 3 billion appropriated for the Commerce Department, “25 percent shall be for assistance to States and communities that have suffered economic injury as a result of job and gross domestic product losses in the travel, tourism, or outdoor recreation sectors.” The House version had it at 15 percent.

Now read: As aid bill gives $ 25 billion to restaurants, industry says it’s a ‘strong step,’ but more will be needed

Also: $ 15 billion for airline industry called ‘first surprise’ in Democratic aid plan