Schumer urges Democrats to stick together on $1.9T bill

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) warned Senate Democrats, including centrists who are balking at certain elements of President Biden’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.

“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 Manchin (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 Tester (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 Collins (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.

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 Haaland (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.”

“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 Tanden, the president’s choice to head the White House budget office, because of criticisms of Senate colleagues she has made on Twitter. 

Tags Budget office Charles Schumer Confirmation battles coronavirus relief Deb Haaland Joe Biden Joe Manchin Jon Tester Minimum wage Neera Tanden Susan Collins
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