WASHINGTON – President Biden, stimulated by a lackluster January job report and Democratic support for his $ 1.9 trillion economic aid proposal, said Friday that the economy is in dire need of help and Republicans are in dire need of either a robust stimulus package should get on board or expect his plan to come about without their assistance.
“I believe the American people are currently seeking help from their government to get our jobs done and not let them down,” Biden said. “So I will act and I will act quickly.”
His remarks in the White House came just hours after the Senate approved the president’s $ 1.9 trillion stimulus package, modeled on party politics and through the unified Republican opposition. Vice President Kamala Harris cast her first casting vote to approve a 51-50 budget that will allow the proposal to move forward. The House swiftly followed suit on Friday, passing budget resolution 219-209.
House Chairs and Democratic leaders met with the President in the White House Friday morning to discuss legislative strategy. Afterward, spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi said her goal was to approve a bill and bring it to the Senate within two weeks. South Carolina representative James E. Clyburn, the Majority Whip, told reporters that the package “absolutely” had enough Democratic votes to pass the House.
Mr Biden, encouraged by that support, was essentially telling Republicans, in his harshest words yet, to either propose changes to the plan that might deserve bipartisan support or to prepare for the Democrats to bypass them and a popular package among voters authorize.
The president referred to the report released on Friday morning which showed that the economy only created 49,000 jobs and the private sector created just 6,000 jobs in January. The labor market remains 10 million jobs below pre-pandemic levels and many people have been unemployed for more than six months.
“When I have to decide whether to get help now for Americans who are so badly injured, or get bogged down in lengthy negotiations or compromise on a bill that can cope with the crisis, it’s an easy choice. I will help the Americans who are injured now, ”said Biden. “What the Republicans have suggested is either nothing or not enough to be done.”
January’s anemic gains sparked broad consensus among Democrats and Republicans that the economic recovery was stalling. But they disagreed on whether the president’s push for a $ 1.9 trillion jolt was the right approach. Democratic leaders reiterated his calls for aggressive action, and Republicans warned of increased budget deficits and accused Mr Biden of renouncing bipartisanism.
Republicans and their allies have not yet come together in a rigorous criticism of Mr Biden’s proposals. Some have argued that the economy is just beginning to take advantage of a $ 900 billion aid package approved in December and that the economy does not need another large dose of stimulus.
Others, like Texas Republican Michael C. Burgess, have emphasized the nation’s growing debt. Mr Burgess argued that Mr Biden’s plan would “add nearly $ 2 trillion to the deficit” before listing a number of complaints about the package, including the fact that it will send money to states he accuses of having poorly managed their budgets.
The main argument Republicans have made against the effort so far is that by failing to find Republican support, Mr Biden is cutting off his own campaign call to bring people together across party lines.
“After all the talk about unity,” said Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the Republican chief on the Finance Committee, “President Biden and the Democrats have taken the partisan route straight out of the gate.”
Mr. Biden and his staff opposed this criticism, claiming that “unity” refers to bringing together the voting public, not members of Congress.
“The president went on to unite the country and come up with ideas that would help address the crisis we are facing,” said Jen Psaki, White House press secretary, citing polls showing both parties’ support for demonstrate the plan by both parties. “He did not promise to unite the Democratic and Republican parties in one party in Washington.”
Apr 6, 2021, 9:40 a.m. ET
“This package is largely supported by the American public,” said Psaki. “That’s what people want. They want to see it’s over. They want those checks to get into the communities. They want these funds to go to schools. They want more money to distribute vaccines. “
Still, Mr Biden took the chance that Republicans would come aboard and allowed the possibility that his plans could be changed slightly to appease the moderates in both parties. This included recognition for advocating a restriction on who receives the $ 1,400 direct payments included in the proposal to ensure that those who earn more than $ 300,000 do not benefit. He did not specify what threshold he would accept to start the checks expiring, but made it clear that the starting amount would not change.
“I don’t cut the size of the checks,” he said. “It’s going to cost $ 1,400, period. That was promised to the American people. “
The Senate voted 99-1 on Thursday to restrict direct payments to high earners without specifying what level of income was too high.
Democrats are quick to get Mr. Biden’s “American Rescue Plan” – which includes money to fight the pandemic and several additions to the social safety net – through Congress with limited changes. A Quinnipiac University poll this week found that nearly seven out of ten voters supported Mr Biden’s plan, and another poll released this week by liberal Protect Our Care group found that nearly three-quarters of voters supported the plan after describing its provisions, including half of Republican respondents.
Biden government officials continued their efforts to build support for the plan. Ms. Harris and Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen met with members of the Black Chambers of Commerce across the country Friday to discuss the plan.
Focusing on the disproportionate effect the coronavirus and its economic toll had on blacks, Latinos and other people of color, Ms Yellen said the president wanted to push through a robust aid package to help alleviate these inequalities.
“African Americans were the first to lose their small businesses. You were the first to lose your job. And we’ve seen early data suggesting that black workers will be the last to be hired when the economy reopens, ”Ms. Yellen said. “That is why the American rescue plan is urgently needed: to ensure that this pandemic is not another generational setback for racial equality.”
While Congressional Democrats largely agree on the need to get Mr Biden’s proposals passed, they remain divided on some crucial details.
House Democratic leaders, who met with Mr Biden on Friday, said they had been pressure from their base to oppose efforts to cut payments, along with the $ 600 to the $ 2,000 check approved in December for which the Democrats fought last month to win the Senate runoff elections in Georgia.
At least one Republican is also pushing to keep the income limit above which payments for individuals will expire at $ 75,000, as Mr Biden initially suggested. Representative David B. McKinley, Republican of West Virginia, and Representative Lisa Blunt Rochester, Democrat of Delaware, urged colleagues not to restrict payments on Friday.
“Today’s report on weak jobs shows how hard American families are and need immediate help,” McKinley said in a post on Medium. “A third round of individual aid would give millions of American families the help they need.”
Democrats, including Mr Biden and his aides, also cited the job numbers as a call to action on the proposal.
“We are facing the greatest crisis in our life. Americans are counting on us, ”said New York Democrat Joseph D. Morelle on the floor of the house as he urged his colleagues to vote for the budget resolution.
Mr Morelle highlighted the death toll from the virus, which has killed more than 450,000 Americans. “It is families of all political beliefs who are fighting,” he said.
The Senate budget resolution that paved the way for partisan approval of the stimulus package was passed after a nightly series of votes on amendments, many of which were intended to curtail Mr Biden’s ability to push through his $ 1.9 trillion proposal. One such effort was successful: overnight, the Senate approved a proposal by Senator Joni Ernst, Republican of Iowa, to ban minimum wage increases during the pandemic.
Mr. Biden’s plan is to raise the federal minimum wage to $ 15 an hour by 2025.
The Democrats did not deny Ms. Ernst’s proposal to pass a vote with no record of supporters and opponents, arguing that it was never their intention to raise wages immediately. However, their reluctance to officially record a vote on the matter signaled that the wage increase may ultimately lack support for an evenly divided Senate in which at least one Democrat, Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, is in opposition.
The wage proposal could also struggle to get a rehearsal with the Senate MP who could decide it violates the secret rules of the budget reconciliation process that the Democrats are using to pass their bill, as the Republicans did on 2017 tax cuts.
Ms. Pelosi told reporters Friday that she wasn’t sure the $ 15 minimum wage would become law as part of the plan. “We just don’t know,” she said.