Biden calls Democrats, urges big COVID-19 relief bill

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President Biden urged Senate Democrats in a call Tuesday to “go big” and move quickly on a COVID-19 relief bill, signaling that he is rejecting a $618 billion proposal sponsored by 10 GOP senators as “too small” even though he is open to some of their ideas.

“It was clear,” said Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) after the call. “Go big and be prompt because the American public is really hurting and really needs this.”

Biden told Democrats that his clear preference is for Congress to pass a $1.9 trillion package, despite concerns voiced by Republicans about the impact on the deficit.

Kaine said Biden didn’t close any doors to working with Republicans but he wants Democrats to move a large package immediately, which means it’s almost certain to need to move under a special process known as budget reconciliation to be able to pass with a simple majority vote.

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) after the call said Biden dismissed a $618 billion proposal sponsored by 10 moderate Republicans, which does not include aid to state and local governments and limits the size of direct checks to individuals to $1,000, as falling short of what’s needed.

“President Biden spoke about the need for Congress to respond boldly and quickly. He was very strong in emphasizing the need for a big, bold package. He said that he told Senate Republicans that the $600 billion that they proposed was way too small,” Schumer told reporters after the call, relaying Biden’s comments to the group of Republicans who met with him at the White House on Monday. 

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) later confirmed that Biden told Republicans directly that their proposal didn’t spend enough money.

“I don’t think any of us came out of there with any illusions that we were going to have any big dramatic changes but I think maybe some tweaking and some — maybe a little bit more back and forth but I don’t think that’s where his staff wants him to go and it doesn’t seem like that’s where they’re going to go,” she said.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, who was also on the Tuesday call with Senate Democrats, warned that pumping significantly less than Biden’s $1.9 trillion boost to the economy could have long-term consequences.

Schumer said Biden and Yellen believe that if Congress passes a relief bill significantly less than $1 trillion “we’d be mired in the COVID crisis for years.”

“We are not going to make the mistake of 2009 and have too small a package that took too long,” Schumer added.

“Secretary Yellen said the Republican $600 billion wasn’t close to enough and specifically noted that it didn’t do enough to help low-income families because it excluded the [earned income tax credit] and the [child tax credit],” he said.

Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), a close ally of Biden’s, said the president told Democrats on Tuesday “the risks of going too big are outweighed by the risks of going too small and this is an urgent moment.”

“While he welcomes the possibility of bipartisanship, he’s not going to forget the middle class,” he added.

Shortly after the call, the Senate voted 50-49 on a motion to proceed to a budget resolution that will include reconciliation instructions to allow a large COVID-19 relief package to pass without any Republican votes. 

Tags Charles Schumer Chris Coons Coronavirus COVID-19 Janet Yellen Shelley Moore Capito Tim Kaine

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