President Biden and congressional Democrats are pressing ahead on a massive $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill, taking the steps in the House and Senate to approve the measure without Republican support.
Biden called into the weekly House Democratic Caucus call Wednesday and reiterated his commitment to including direct payments of $1,400 in the package.
But as some Republicans press for the payments to be targeted to those below a lower income threshold, the president signaled some room to compromise there, according to a source on the call. “Maybe we can — I think we can better target that number,” Biden said, according to the source. “I’m OK with that.”
But Biden declared, “I’m not going to start my administration by breaking a promise to the American people.”
The president then met with Senate Democratic leaders in the Oval Office on Wednesday for about 90 minutes. Reporters ushered in for a brief photo op at the start of the meeting said Biden did not respond to shouted questions about the targeting of payments. He did say he believed he would get some GOP support for his proposal.
After the meeting, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said there was “universal agreement we must go big and bold” and said he hoped for Republican support but was not willing to wait too long
“We want to do it bipartisan, but we must be strong. We cannot dawdle, we cannot delay, we cannot dilute, because the troubles that this nation has and the opportunities that we can bring them are so large,” Schumer said, declining to take reporters’ questions.
The rapid outreach to Democrats comes after a two-hour meeting Monday with a group of 10 Republican senators who floated a scaled-down, roughly $600 billion COVID-19 bill. GOP senators praised the open dialogue, but both sides acknowledged they were far apart on the size and some key components of what should be in a final deal.
The White House and senior Democrats on Capitol Hill maintain that the millions of Americans struggling because of the coronavirus pandemic require a bolder approach.
The Senate began debating its budget bill Tuesday, something that’s expected to take the bulk of the week, and the House is expected to approve its version Wednesday evening. That sets in motion a process known as reconciliation that allows a bill to go through with a simple majority in the Senate and avoid the 60-vote requirement needed to end a filibuster.