Schumer vows Democrats ‘united’ after Biden meeting on coronavirus
Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Wednesday said Democrats are “united” about going big on coronavirus relief after a meeting with President Biden.
“There’s agreement, universal agreement. We must go big and bold,” Schumer told reporters.
Biden met with Schumer and ten incoming Democratic committee chairmen who will have a hand in crafting the coronavirus relief bill. The Senate still needs to pass a budget resolution that greenlights passing coronavirus relief without needing to overcome a 60-vote filibuster.
The meeting with top Senate Democrats came after Biden held a call with House Democrats to discuss his $1.9 trillion proposal that includes a $1,400 stimulus check, $350 billion in state and local government assistance, unemployment insurance and a minimum wage hike to $15 per hour.
Though Democrats will pass the budget resolution this week paving the way for the subsequent coronavirus legislation, they still need to reach an agreement on the eventual bill.
Democrats have no room for error if they are going to pass the legislation without GOP support. They have a 10-seat voting edge in the House and will need the support of every member of the 50-senator caucus to pass it without GOP votes.
There are already points of contention including the push to include a $15 per hour minimum wage. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) told The Hill that he doesn’t support that measure, and with such a tight margin in the upper chamber, his opposition could be enough to jettison it from the bill.
He also told Fox News that he views the amount of money being requested for state and local governments as too high.
Democrats have also been discussing if they should change the phase-out structure of the relief checks over concerns that it could allow higher-income households, who weren’t eligible for payments under the $600 check, to get a direct assistance payment.
Previous proposals to provide the $1,400 check drew bipartisan skepticism in the Senate because they increased the amount of the checks but kept the same phase-out structure.
Biden told House Democrats that he was open to changing the eligibility for the $1,400 checks but committed to the amount for the check.
Democrats say they are also still hopeful that Republicans will ultimately vote for the coronavirus bill, though Republicans are warning they view using reconciliation as signaling Democrats intend to go it alone.
Schumer, speaking to reporters, warned that they weren’t willing to “dilute” the bill. A group of 10 Republicans has pitched a $618 billion package that Biden told them during a closed-door White House meeting was too low.
“We want to do it bipartisan, but we must be strong. We cannot dawdle, we cannot delay, we cannot dilute, because the troubles that this nation has and the opportunities that we can bring them are so large,” Schumer said.