Biden tells Senate Democrats to stick together, quickly pass coronavirus relief

SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images
US President Joe Biden speaks about the 50 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine shot administered in the US during an event commemorating the milestone in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, DC, February 25, 2021.

President Biden on Tuesday urged Senate Democrats to stay united and quickly pass a coronavirus relief bill, as the caucus is trying to navigate some high-profile squabbles.

Biden’s message, delivered during a virtual conference call, comes as the Senate could take up a sweeping $1.9 trillion coronavirus bill as soon as Wednesday.

“Senate Democrats are committed to passing the American Rescue Plan. … He said that we need to pass this bill and pass it soon,” Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) told reporters after the call. 

Biden and Schumer will need every member of the Senate Democratic Conference in order to get the bill through the chamber. Because of the Senate’s 50-50 status, Democrats will need their entire caucus and Vice President Harris to pass the bill since no Republicans are expected to support it. 

“This is really important. Democrats stick together. Let’s get this done,” said Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), recounting the message from Biden.

Asked if Biden was concerned about poison pill amendments, Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) added that Biden was urging the caucus to “stay focused” on being able to get the bill signed into law. 

Republicans are expected to use an hours-long vote-a-rama this week to try to water down the coronavirus relief bill. Because of the tight margin, they would only need to get one Democratic senator on board to make changes to the bill. 

Passing the coronavirus relief bill would give Biden and congressional Democrats their first big legislative win.

“We’ll have the votes we need to pass the bill,” Schumer pledged on Tuesday.  

Biden’s unity message comes as the caucus is still trying to work out high-profile divisions. But senators say he’s largely leaving it to them to work out the policy details. 

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) wants the $400 per week unemployment benefit included in the House bill to be at $300 per week — an amount opposed by members of leadership and some committee chairmen.

“I’ve been at $300. … I would prefer if they stay at $300,” Manchin said.

Democrats are also mulling changes to the phase-out structure of the stimulus checks, after raising further targeting the payments during a separate call with Biden on Monday. 

Progressives are also fuming after the parliamentarian advised that a minimum wage hike could not be included because it doesn’t comply with arcane budget rules that govern what can be included in reconciliation, the process they are using to bypass a 60-vote filibuster. 

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has pledged to force a vote on the issue, daring some of his more moderate Democratic colleagues to vote against it. 

“I will be offering an amendment to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. At a time when millions of workers are earning starvation wages, when the minimum wage has not been raised by Congress since 2007 and stands at a pathetic $7.25 an hour, it is time to raise the minimum wage to a living wage,” Sanders said in a statement. 

Tags Ben Cardin Bernie Sanders Charles Schumer Coronavirus COVID-19 Joe Biden Joe Manchin Minimum wage relief bill Stimulus Tim Kaine Unemployment White House

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