Biden, Yellen call for swift action on coronavirus relief package
President Biden on Friday pushed Congress to act urgently on his proposed economic relief package as the White House scraps to garner bipartisan support.
“The choice couldn’t be clearer. We have learned from past crises that the risk is not doing too much. The risk is not doing enough. And this is a time to act now,” Biden said during a meeting with top economic advisers in the Oval Office.
Biden cited studies that show inaction could lead to massive long-term job losses and further delay the economy from getting back on track amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“There is an overwhelming consensus among economists — left, right and center — that this is a unique moment in this crisis, and the cost of inaction is high and is growing every day,” Biden said, noting that advisers to former Presidents Trump and George W. Bush have made the same case.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, who joined Biden for the meeting, pointed to data released a day earlier that showed 847,000 Americans filed for unemployment claims as the economic recovery lags and the pandemic worsens.
“The president is absolutely right. The price of doing nothing is much higher than the price of doing something, and doing something big,” Yellen said. “We need to act now, and the benefits of acting now and acting big will far outweigh the costs in the long run.”
Biden’s call for swift action comes as congressional Democrats have signaled they are prepared to move on the relief package with or without Republican support in the coming days, despite the White House’s repeated public calls for bipartisanship.
Republicans have balked at the $1.9 trillion price tag of the bill and argued it may be better to allow more time for the relief bill passed in December to take hold.
Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Thursday that Democrats were willing to go it alone on the coronavirus relief package, potentially starting the process as soon as next week.
White House aides have been adamant that they do not support breaking up the $1.9 trillion package and passing it piece-by-piece to garner Republican support.
They have also indicated the administration is open to passing the package via the budget reconciliation process, which would allow the bill to pass with a simple majority in each chamber. Passing the legislation without reconciliation would require support from at least 10 Senate Republicans.
“I support passing Covid relief with support from Republicans if we can get it, but the covid relief has to pass. There’s no ifs, ands or buts,” Biden said later Friday when asked if he supports using reconciliation to pass the bill.
Updated: 2:18 p.m.
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