White House goes full-throttle on COVID-19 relief talks

The White House is moving forward with a range of meetings with lawmakers and other stakeholders as President Biden urges the passage of his $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief proposal.

Press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Wednesday that Biden and Vice President Harris are “engaged directly” with members of Congress on COVID-19 relief and described conversations as productive, though she did not provide specific details on any of their meetings.

Psaki said that National Economic Council Director Brian Deese and Jeff Zients, who is overseeing the White House’s coronavirus response, are scheduled to meet with members of the New Democrat Coalition of moderate congressional Democrats.

Zients led a meeting of bipartisan governors on Tuesday and Deese has been holding meetings with lawmakers, including a bipartisan call on Sunday. The call over the weekend did not appear to yield any tangible progress on reaching a deal.

Psaki said that the White House Office of Public Engagement, led by Cedric Richmond, would meet with 100 presidents of historically Black colleges and universities on Thursday. The office met with civil rights groups on Tuesday and is briefing labor leaders, advocates for young people and organizations focused on building wealth in the Black community on Wednesday.

White House chief of staff Ron Klain and senior adviser Anita Dunn have also engaged with members of Congress, Psaki said.

Meanwhile, Biden will meet with newly confirmed Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and other economic officials on Friday to receive a briefing “on the impacts of delay in moving forward with the additional economic relief,” Psaki said.

“Our team continues to build support for the American Rescue Plan as more and more voices across the country recognize the urgent need to get American families the help they need,” she told reporters at a Wednesday afternoon briefing.  

The $1.9 trillion relief proposal is designed to help American workers, businesses and state and local governments impacted by the virus, which has caused millions of job losses. A large chunk of the proposal is also devoted to supporting nationwide testing, a vaccine distribution plan and safe school reopening efforts.

Biden has run into resistance from Republicans as he pushes for the passage of the proposal in a Congress that is narrowly controlled by Democrats. The president has said he’d like to get bipartisan support for the package, but the White House has not ruled out using reconciliation to pass a bill with a slim majority.

The legislative push represents the first test of the ability of Biden, a former senator, and his team to negotiate with Capitol Hill. The White House has not set a specific timeline on when they would like to see a deal passed.

Biden acknowledged Monday that it could take “a couple of weeks” to reach an agreement and said Democratic leaders would ultimately decide whether to use reconciliation depending on how negotiations go. 

Tags Brian Deese Cedric Richmond Coronavirus coronavirus aid coronavirus relief coronavirus stimulus COVID-19 Janet Yellen Jeff Zients Jen Psaki Ron Klain
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