Biden tells Democrats he's willing to compromise on stimulus checks

Grant Boone
February 4, 2021

Biden said he was open to considering tighter eligibility requirements for stimulus checks but signaled he wasn't willing to reduce the standard of a $1,400 payment outlined in his aid package, the people said.

The Biden administration has a "mandate" to pass COVID-19 relief, including sending direct checks, reopening schools and getting people vaccinated, and that is why they have to "go big", White House principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.

"They've chosen a totally partisan path", Kentucky Sen. and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told The Times about Senate Democrats. Chris Coons, D-Del., right, talks to reporters after they met with President Joe Biden at the White House on February 3.

Biden framed his views during the virtual lunch meeting with Democrats by talking about the need not to forget working and middle-class families even those like nurses and pipefitters making $150,000 for a family of four who are straining during the crisis, according to a person granted anonymity to discuss the private call.

With a rising virus death toll and strained economy, the goal is to have COVID-19 relief approved by March, when extra unemployment assistance and other pandemic aid measures expire.

While Biden is trying to build bipartisan support from Republicans, he is also prepared to rely on the Democratic majority in Congress to push the package into law.

Since the inauguration of President Joe Biden last month, Democrats have said that time is of the essence in passing the next relief package, as too many Americans can't afford to wait. With zero margin for error, a single Democratic senator or just a handful of House Democrats could force the party to change tactics.

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As the White House reaches for a bipartisan bill, House and Senate Democrats have launched a lengthy budget process for approving Biden's bill with or without Republican support. "If it's a little smaller than that and we find a targeted need, then that's what we're going to do".

"We've got to start putting some trust and some bipartisanship in this", Manchin said. Republicans also would give nothing to states, money that Democrats argue is just as important, with $350 billion in Bidens plan to keep police, fire and other workers on the job. (The former is a hypocritical argument given that congressional Republicans have happily added to the deficit with tax cuts but now decry doing so when it could help everyday Americans, and the latter has not obviated the need for direct payments to help families.) Biden has made clear, rightly so, that the GOP proposal is woefully inadequate.

Ten Republican senators, including West Virginia's Shelley Moore Capito, back a $618 billion relief framework that matches Biden's proposed package on coronavirus response efforts and health services but dedicates less funding for individual payments, unemployment benefits, schools and state governments.

The Republicans offer $40 billion for Paycheck Protection Program business aid.

Meanwhile, Democrats in the upper chamber are planning to pass the bill through a budget resolution, which is filibuster proof, when it gets back to the upper chamber. But gone are Democratic priorities such as a gradual lifting of the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.

The 50-49 vote on advancing the package kicks off the budget-reconciliation process in the Senate. Vice President Kamala Harris is the tie-breaker.

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