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Biden meets with labor, business on COVID-19 relief

Biden meets with labor, business on COVID-19 relief
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President BidenJoe BidenLawmakers, activists remember civil rights icons to mark 'Bloody Sunday' Fauci predicts high schoolers will receive coronavirus vaccinations this fall Biden nominates female generals whose promotions were reportedly delayed under Trump MORE is casting a wide net to garner support for his COVID-19 relief plan, appealing to both business and labor groups to back the effort.

Biden met with labor leaders at the White House on Wednesday, following similar talks with the heads of business groups that are often at odds with unions.

While there is much that each side finds attractive in the $1.9 trillion proposal, the inclusion of language in the House measure raising the federal minimum wage over time to $15 per hour is a point of division.

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“The things that we’ve stressed are one, that minimum wage doesn’t belong in this package and that there is a real benefit both for this package and for the other legislative priorities that frankly we share with the administration on getting their done on a bipartisan basis,” said Neil Bradley, chief policy officer at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The meeting on Wednesday included Richard Trumka, president of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), and Elizabeth Shuler, the AFL-CIO’s secretary-treasurer. The AFL-CIO has been one of the loudest groups calling for a $15 minimum wage.

Biden said at the meeting that the labor leaders, who he called close friends, “want everything” in his COVID-19 relief plan.

“Not a joke. Everything in the plan,” he said. “I asked a rhetorical question, those who opposed the plan...Don’t they want to help people be able to pay their mortgages? Don't they want to help people get their unemployment insurance? Don't they want to make sure that people are able to stay in their homes without being thrown out of their homes in the middle of this god awful pandemic? What don't they like?”

Biden’s plan includes $1,400 relief checks, extended federal unemployment programs and a weekly extra boost to benefits, and $14 billion for vaccines and therapeutics, among other provisions.

Democrats are prepping budget rules to move the measure through the Senate on a Democratic-only vote, sidestepping the filibuster.

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Other attendees at the Wednesday meeting, which also covered Biden’s push for an infrastructure measure, included Sean McGarvey, president of the North America’s Building Trades Union, and Robert Martinez, Jr. international president of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.  

The White House has previously talked with leaders of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable and the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM). 

“The Chamber has been engaging with the administration on a whole host of issues but clearly a principal topic of the conversation has been COVID and the American Rescue Plan. This engagement started from before he took office,” Bradley said.

He also said that these conversations with the White House are frequent and a few times a week.

A meeting earlier this month included Biden and Treasury Secretary Janet YellenJanet Louise YellenThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by ExxonMobil - Senate begins marathon vote-a-rama before .9T COVID-19 relief passage The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Virus relief bill headed for weekend vote Debt to break WWII record by 2031 MORE, as well as Tom Donohue from the Chamber, JPMorgan’s Jamie Dimon, Walmart’s Doug McMillon, Gap’s Sonia Syngal and Lowe’s Marvin Ellison.

“Tom was honored to be included and share our insights into the state of the economy and what government and the private sector can do to support it,” Bradley said. “We don’t always agree on everything but they’re incredibly professional and very good at doing outreach and including stakeholders.”

The Business Roundtable, the top CEO group, is in “close contact” with the White House regarding its support for the rapid enactment of a COVID rescue package, a spokesperson said.

Joshua Bolten, the group's CEO, told CNBC earlier this month that conversations are more extensive with the Biden administration than they were with the Trump administration. 

“From our perspective, they’ve been terrific. There's been a very high level of engagement outreach, consultation. Candidly, in ways that are much more extensive and deeper than we experienced even at the outset of the Trump administration,” Bolten said. “Now, we're not going to agree on everything. But at this point we feel very comfortable that we have the communication.”

The White House engagement with NAM has been consistent since the transition began.

“Conversations with the NAM and the current administration didn’t begin on Inauguration Day. We have been engaged with the Biden Administration throughout the transition on a number of critical issues, most importantly how manufacturers can continue to aid in efforts to defeat COVID-19 and what’s needed to help the economic recovery,” a NAM spokesperson said.

Additionally, Airlines for America (A4A) said they are in “regular” communications with the administration. 

Biden’s original $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package didn’t include any funding for airlines. But the House Democrats’ coronavirus relief package includes $15 billion for U.S. airlines.