United States President Joe Biden talks about his administration’s plans to respond to the economic crisis during a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) response in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington on January 22, 2021.
Jonathan Ernst | Reuters
President Joe Biden said Monday it could be weeks for Congress to end talks on a coronavirus aid deal and for Democrats to decide whether to push an aid bill without GOP support.
“I don’t assume we know we will have an agreement … until we reach the end of this process, which is likely to happen in a few weeks,” he told reporters after signing an executive order that aims to encourage the purchase of American-made goods.
He said a decision on whether to use the budget vote process to pass an aid package with only democratic votes “depends on how these negotiations go”. He noted that the Democratic leaders in Congress would ultimately decide how to proceed with trying to pass laws.
White House officials on Sunday called 16 Democratic and Republican senators to discuss Biden’s $ 1.9 trillion bailout plan, vaccination tightening calls for funds, $ 1,400 direct payments, a $ 400 weekly jobless allowance, and state funding and local government support.
Biden has made the plan his top priority since taking office on Wednesday, stating that the health system and economy need an immediate jolt as the pandemic weighs on them.
Post-meeting comments suggest that Biden could win bipartisan support for Covid-19 vaccination funds – but may not get Republican votes on many of his other proposals. A majority of 60 votes seemed difficult for him to get as the GOP legislature signaled support for a smaller package based on vaccine distribution funds.
The call senators agreed that producing and distributing recordings was a top priority, said a person familiar with the discussions. However, a handful of Republican and Democratic senators left the meeting to question the price proposed by the Biden team, suggesting that the White House may need to scale back its ambitions to win support from both parties.
The administration faces a dilemma. With the Senate group committing to continue talks, the White House could choose to stand behind a smaller bipartisan bill if one develops. Otherwise, Democrats can translate at least some of their aid priorities into laws that could be passed by majority budget vote, which would only require democratic support in a 50:50 Senate.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., has not ruled out the pandemic aid approval process being used.
“We hope our Republican friends will see the need and work with us, but if not we will. There are other means we can use, including reconciliation, that will enable us to do this,” he said Reporters in New York on Sunday.
The urge for new relief comes as an average of more than 3,000 Americans lose their lives to the virus each day and the Biden government tries to push a sluggish vaccine rollout. Biden signed several executive orders in his first days in office to contain the outbreak and mitigate an economic crisis that saw some 16 million people receive unemployment benefits earlier this month.
The US has given nearly 22 million doses to date, and more than 3 million people have received both of the required shots, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Biden wants the US to fire 100 million shots in his first 100 days in office as the country seeks a level of immunity that allows governments to lift public health restrictions.
As the Senate tries to validate Biden’s cabinet candidates and prepares to begin impeachment proceedings against former President Donald Trump in two weeks’ time, the Democrat-run house stands ready to take the lead on another auxiliary bill. House spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Said Thursday that while the chamber is vacant this week, the committees will be working on a coronavirus relief bill “so we are ready to commit next month Floor to go “.
It is now unclear how much House Legislation will resemble Biden’s plan. Democratic leaders have also made vaccine distribution a priority.
Democrats can get a bill through the house without a Republican vote. Still, the party cannot afford to have many failures from its ranks, as it has a slim majority of 221-211.
Many Democrats in Congress have been pushing for another major bailout bill to be passed as soon as possible. In a statement Monday, House Budget Committee chairman John Yarmuth, D-Ky. Said his party could use reconciliation if Republicans don’t send more aid soon.
“The Biden administration has worked hard to get bipartisan support for this much-needed COVID rescue package,” he said. “We applaud this support, but we are also fully committed to driving reconciliation to give families and communities the relief they need now.”
Senate Budgets Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Has also urged Democrats to use the process to pass parts of Biden’s plan, including a minimum wage of $ 15 an hour.
The Senate poses a greater challenge to the Democrats than the House. Republicans have shown little interest in another major spending package after lawmakers passed a $ 900 billion bailout plan last month.
Senator Angus King, a Maine independent negotiator who is negotiating with Democrats, told CNN on Sunday that the Senators had asked Biden officials for further explanations on how they chose to spend, including a total of $ 130 billion to help reopen schools safely.
“We also planned to meet probably no later than Tuesday to see if a non-partisan package can be put together. It won’t be easy,” said King. “And remember, we just passed a package … about three weeks ago, so there’s a lot to do.”
The other Senator from Maine, Republican Susan Collins, also joined the call. After the meeting, she told NBC News through a spokesman that it was “premature to consider a package this size and scope”.
She said she supported more money for vaccine distribution but argued that a bill should put more restrictions on recipients of the $ 1,400 direct payment. West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin has also argued that lawmakers should better target another round of stimulus checks.
Biden suggested on Monday that he was open to negotiating eligibility for the next round of payments.
Ohio Senator Rob Portman, a Republican who announced Monday that he will not run for re-election, also called on Biden to roll back the plan.
“I hope the administration will work with us on a more focused approach focusing on things like vaccine distribution, testing and getting children back to school,” he said in a statement.
The Biden government has argued that the federal government is taking the risk of doing too little to stimulate the health system and economy. National Economic Council director Brian Deese, who chaired the meeting with the senators, told reporters on Friday that “we are at a precarious moment” to respond to the pandemic.
“What I can tell you is if we don’t act now we will be in a much worse place and we will have to do a lot more to dig out a much deeper hole,” he said.
After calling the senators, senior administrators told reporters that the meeting was “consistently constructive,” according to NBC News.
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