Sen. Bill Cassidy, who joined nine other Republicans in a meeting with President Joe Biden to discuss COVID-19 stimulus legislation, said that even though no agreements were reached, the meeting still marked a "path forward" as negotiations continue.
"You have always got to start someplace," the Louisiana lawmaker said on CNBC's "Squawk Box." "Yes, it was a forum to exchange ideas. It was also a forum to commit to where, wait for a second, if we disagree, maybe we can resolve our disagreement by looking at each other's facts, which should be common, and if we agree upon the facts, then maybe that moves us through an agreement on the overall number."
And even while the Biden administration has indicated that it will move forward for an agreement that would be pushed through the Democrat-controlled House, Cassidy said he remains optimistic that a bipartisan agreement can be reached.
"We've had five COVID relief packages with a Republican led-Senate and a Republican president," said Cassidy. "All five have been bipartisan. Now let that sink in: Everybody's saying this cannot be, and yet we've had five that have and they've been very effective."
However, Republicans won't agree to Biden's call to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, said Cassidy, as the Congressional Budget Office has estimated such a move would kill millions of jobs.
"Think of all the small businesses that are barely hanging on," he said. "They would fold. You would just decimate small businesses, restaurants, etc., barely hanging on now. That should not be germane to the budget process."
He added that a numerical figure shouldn't be picked at the outset of a bill.
"You figure out what the needs are for each component and then you put them together and your top line emerges so," he said. "The administration wants $135 billion for schools. We've put up 20 billion — probably more than we should have. Why? Because the Centers for Disease Control has estimated it will cost about $455 per student to reopen schools. We've already given over $1,000 per student. We've given almost three times more than the CDC said is necessary to reopen schools and yet the administration wants $135 billion more."
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