Biden’s Path To $1.9 Trillion Stimulus Still Unclear As GOP Resists Spending

Topline

In his first week in office, the path of Biden’s top legislative priority—a sweeping $1.9 trillion stimulus package—is still unclear as he faces resistance from some in the GOP and begins work on bringing congressional lawmakers on board with his priorities. 

Key Facts

White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Wednesday that Biden will continue to meet with congressional lawmakers of both parties to discuss his ambitious spending package, and added that while Biden’s “clear preference” is to pass a bipartisan bill, “we’re also not going to take any tools off the table.”

Top Biden advisor Brian Deese, head of the National Economic Council, also has plans to meet with a bipartisan group of lawmakers in the coming days to drum up support for Biden’s $1.9 trillion plan, Bloomberg reported Thursday. 

That plan has already encountered resistance among leaders in the GOP: Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) called the plan a “non-starter” (though he did note that the plan includes some elements that Republicans back), Politico’s Burgess Everett reported; and Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) said Wednesday that he’s “not looking for a new program in the immediate future” since Congress passed a $900 billion relief bill just last month.

If the Biden administration cannot muster up enough Republican support to pass the relief plan under normal rules, Democrats can pass it through budget reconciliation rules—those only require a simple majority but that approach will likely mean Biden will need to slim down his ask to keep conservative Democrats like Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) happy. 

That could spell significant changes to the proposals Biden laid out last week, and some in the House are even considering passing an immediate deal with stimulus checks and vaccine money to get at least some relief out ahead of a follow-up package with the rest of Biden’s asks, Punchbowl News reported. 

During a press briefing Thursday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (R-Calif.) said Democrats would work on coronavirus relief next week in committees to be “completely ready to go to the floor” when the House returns to session in the first week of February, but it isn’t clear what outcome, or what kind of relief bill, that committee work will produce. 

Big Number

900,000. That’s how many Americans filed new claims for state unemployment benefits last week, according to data released Thursday by the Labor Department—slightly fewer than the previous week’s claims but still incredibly high by historical standards. 

Crucial Quote

“This morning’s report on new unemployment claims is another stark reminder that we must act now on the President’s American Rescue Plan to get immediate relief to families and spur our economy,” Nationwide Economic Council director Brian Deese said in a statement Thursday. “It’s critical that Congress act quickly on the President’s proposals and provide relief for families in need.”

Key Background

Biden’s plan would follow the five coronavirus relief bills that have already authorized some $3.5 trillion in legislative spending to combat the pandemic.It would include another round of stimulus checks at $1,400 (to boost the last round from $600 to $2,000), expanded federal enhanced unemployment benefits to $400 per week through September, and more assistance for small businesses. Some provisions—like a $15-per-hour national minimum wage and another $350 billion in state and local aid—are sure to prompt opposition from Republicans while others—like a major expansion of the child tax credit—have significant bipartisan support. 

Further Reading

Another 900,000 Americans Filed For Unemployment Last Week As Biden Preps Major Stimulus Push (Forbes)

Don’t Hold Your Breath For Biden’s Big Stimulus Plan—Here’s Why Some Of It Might Be Delayed (Forbes)

 Biden Is Inheriting One Of The Worst Economies In Recent History—These 5 Numbers Show How Much He Needs To Fix (Forbes)

Janet Yellen Wants Lawmakers To ‘Act Big’ On Stimulus (Forbes)

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