Joe Biden 'open' to cutting cost of $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan

Henrietta Strickland
February 20, 2021

"President Biden has been consistent in private and public about his commitment to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, which is why he included it in his first major piece of legislation", said White House Director of Rapid Response Michael Gwin. That timeline has added to lawmakers' desire to use the reconciliation process, which allows for "expedited consideration" of legislation on spending, taxes and debt.

Reconciliation would also allow Democrats to bypass the 60-vote requirement for advancing the legislation without a filibuster. Instead, under the process, they could pass the deal with a simple majority - paving a path for the bill to become law without needing any Republican votes.

"It's not enough that we find cures for Americans", Biden said.

The legislation also includes a new round of $1,400 stimulus checks. Under complex Senate rules for consideration of the legislation, lawmakers are now awaiting guidance from the Senate parliamentarian on whether the minimum wage provision can even be part of the package.

The minimum wage increase has been a central policy point for progressives and received qualified support from Joe Biden.

Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., have both shown resistance to raising the minimum wage to $15 dollars through budget reconciliation, one of the key provisions of the bill that Republicans objected to.

Because the Senate is divided 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans, Democrats can't afford to lose a single vote if they proceed without GOP support under "budget reconciliation". Some Democratic Senators have signaled they're not comfortable with the bill.

The current proposal would provide full payments to individuals earning up to $75,000 a year and married couples earning up to $150,000 a year - the same income thresholds in Biden's emergency plan released in January. "We will meet this deadline", Schumer wrote in a Friday letter to Senate Democrats. "I think that's unfortunate".

The panel will take up the bill Monday and it is expected to come to the House floor for a vote later next week. Referring to Republican critics, Biden said, "Let me ask them what would they have me cut, what would they have me leave out".

"Republican leaders, searching for a way to derail the proposal, on Friday led a final attempt to tarnish the package, labeling it a 'payoff to progressives.' The bill, they said, spends too much and includes a liberal wish list of programs like aid to state and local governments - which they call a 'blue state bailout, ' though many states facing shortfalls are controlled by Republicans - and increased benefits for the unemployed, which they argued would discourage people from looking for work", the newspaper reported.

But Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told CNBC on Thursday that she wasn't anxious about the legislation going too far.

"I will always be straight with you", Bide said. "The greater risk is of scarring the people, having this pandemic take a permanent lifelong toll on their lives and livelihoods". "Now critics say my plan is too big". "But we have to make clear who is helped and who is hurt".

Summer Lin is a McClatchy Real-Time News Reporter.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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