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Schumer urges Democrats to stick together on $1.9T bill

Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerRon Johnson forces reading of 628-page Senate coronavirus relief bill on floor Senate panel splits along party lines on Becerra House Democrats' ambitious agenda set to run into Senate blockade MORE (D-N.Y.) warned Senate Democrats, including centrists who are balking at certain elements of President BidenJoe BidenTrump State Department appointee arrested in connection with Capitol riot FireEye finds evidence Chinese hackers exploited Microsoft email app flaw since January Biden officials to travel to border amid influx of young migrants MORE’s proposal, that failure to pass a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill would be a political disaster.

Schumer, who scored a win earlier this month when all 50 Democrats voted to pass a budget resolution laying the groundwork for the bill, told colleagues on a conference call they need to stay completely unified in the weeks ahead.

“I made a pitch today to our entire caucus and I said that we need to pass this bill. The American people, the American public demands it and everyone is going to have things that they want to see in the bill and we’ll work hard to see if we can get those things in the bill,” he told reporters after holding a call with the Senate Democratic caucus Tuesday.

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“Job No. 1 is to pass the bill. Pass the bill we must. And I have confidence we will do it,” Schumer said after he was asked about the power of centrist Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinOvernight Defense: Capitol Police may ask National Guard to stay | Biden's Pentagon policy nominee faces criticism | Naval Academy midshipmen moved to hotels Progressives won't oppose bill over limits on stimulus checks Senate votes to take up COVID-19 relief bill MORE (D-W.Va.), who says he opposes including a provision to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.

Schumer also has to worry about centrist Sens. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterMellman: How the Senate decided impeachment Senate Democrats negotiating changes to coronavirus bill Senate mulls changes to .9 trillion coronavirus bill MORE (D-Mont.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), who have flashed independent streaks.

Tester declined to say Tuesday whether he would support raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, explaining he wanted to see if the Senate parliamentarian would approve allowing the provision in a package Democrats plan to pass with a simple majority vote under special budgetary rules.

Earlier on Tuesday, Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsMurkowski votes with Senate panel to advance Haaland nomination OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Interior reverses Trump policy that it says restricted science | Collins to back Haaland's Interior nomination | Republicans press Biden environment nominee on Obama-era policy Republicans, please save your party MORE (Maine), a key Republican centrist, said she would be surprised if any Republican colleagues vote for Biden’s $1.9 trillion rescue plan.

That means Schumer can’t afford any defections from his caucus.

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Asked what he would do to avoid defections from Manchin and other centrists from the COVID-19 relief bill or some of Biden’s more controversial nominees, such as Rep. Deb HaalandDeb HaalandThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by ExxonMobil - Increased security on Capitol Hill amid QAnon's March 4 date Murkowski votes with Senate panel to advance Haaland nomination OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Interior reverses Trump policy that it says restricted science | Collins to back Haaland's Interior nomination | Republicans press Biden environment nominee on Obama-era policy MORE (D-N.M.), who has been nominated to head the Interior Department, Schumer simply held up his flip phone.

“This is my answer,” he said, holding aloft his old-fashioned cellphone. “I speak to my members all the time and I have a leadership that meets Monday night.”

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“We discuss it out and so far, so far, we’ve had great unity,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of unity and we need to keep it."

“With 50 votes we need our unity and we’re fighting to get it and so far, so good,” he added.

The Senate is evenly split, with each party controlling 50 seats, but Democrats are in the majority because Vice President Harris can cast tie-breaking votes in their favor.

The Biden administration suffered a setback last week when Manchin announced he would oppose Neera TandenNeera TandenOvernight Defense: Capitol Police may ask National Guard to stay | Biden's Pentagon policy nominee faces criticism | Naval Academy midshipmen moved to hotels White House says Shalanda Young could serve as acting OMB director Republicans blast Pentagon policy nominee over tweets, Iran nuclear deal MORE, the president’s choice to head the White House budget office, because of criticisms of Senate colleagues she has made on Twitter.