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Biden signals he'll move forward on COVID-19 relief without GOP

President Biden on Friday sent his strongest signal yet that he would move forward with his coronavirus relief proposal without Republican support, making the case for the need for his $1.9 trillion package by citing the January jobs report showing a weak economic recovery.

“I’d like to be doing it with the support of Republicans … but they’re just not willing to go as far as I think we have to go,” Biden said in prepared remarks from the State Dining Room at the White House.

“If I have to choose between getting help right now to Americans who are hurting so badly and getting bogged down in a lengthy negotiation or compromising on a bill that’s up to the crisis, that’s an easy choice,” Biden said. “I’m going to help the American people that are hurting now.”

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Biden’s remarks came shortly after he wrapped a lengthy meeting with House Democrats in the Oval Office to discuss his relief plan. Following the meeting, Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden reverses Trump limits on transgender protections The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Infrastructure, Cheney ouster on deck as Congress returns This week: Congressional leaders to meet with Biden amid GOP reckoning MORE (D-Calif.) laid out a timeline to pass the $1.9 trillion package by the end of the month, with the House passing it within the next two weeks.

The Senate in the early morning hours Friday approved a budget resolution in a party-line vote that would allow Democrats to pass Biden’s $1.9 trillion relief proposal without Republican support. Vice President Harris cast her vote to break the 50-50 tie in the upper chamber and put the resolution over the finish line. The House approved the measure on Friday afternoon.

Biden and other White House officials have pointed to the worsening of the pandemic and ongoing economic hardship to argue the country could suffer for longer if Congress does not act or insists on passing a more modest relief bill.

Biden said Friday that the U.S. would not get back to full employment until 2025 if officials did not act on his package.

The president repeatedly made clear he was done waiting around for Republicans to come around to broker a deal, swiping at those in the GOP who have argued the $1.9 trillion White House proposal would exacerbate spending.

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“What Republicans have proposed is either to do nothing, or not enough,” Biden said. “All of a sudden many of them have rediscovered fiscal restraint and the concern for the deficits. But don’t kid yourself, this approach will come with a cost.”

New figures released by the Labor Department on Friday showed the U.S. economy added 49,000 jobs during the month of January, a sign of a weak recovery as coronavirus cases remain high and businesses and workers feel the pain of closures and restrictions brought on by the virus.

“While we are grateful for everyone who found work and is earning a paycheck, it is very clear that our economy is still in trouble,” Biden said in his address, which he delivered alongside Harris and Treasury Secretary Janet YellenJanet Louise YellenThe Biden administration's domestic approach to foreign policy The Fed does a quiet about-face on inflation Treasury opens applications for 0 billion state and local aid program MORE

“A once in a century virus has decimated our economy and it still wreaking havoc on our economy today and so much of it is still about the virus, we’re still in the teeth of this pandemic,” Biden said, noting that January represented the deadliest month yet in the fight against the virus. 

Biden’s public push for his relief proposal came on the heels of an op-ed published by former Obama economic adviser Larry Summers in The Washington Post that argued Biden’s proposed package is too big and could overheat the economy. Pelosi told reporters that the Summers op-ed did not come up at Democrats’ meeting with Biden. 

Biden has sought to garner GOP support for a relief bill, including by meeting with a group of Republican senators Monday evening who put forward a $600 billion counterproposal that drastically reduced or zeroed out funding included in the White House proposal.

Biden has stood by his proposal for $1,400 checks but signaled he is willing to narrow the income level of people who would be eligible for the one-time direct payments. But the White House has made clear that Biden will not back down from his demand for a robust package, and officials said consistently that the risk was not of going too big but keeping the package too small.