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Biden meets with bipartisan group of lawmakers to discuss initiative to cure cancer

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President Biden met with a bipartisan group of lawmakers Wednesday to discuss the federal government's efforts to eradicate cancer. CBS News' Skyler Henry joins CBSN's Lana Zak to discuss the president's initiative and the day's top political headlines.

Video Transcript

LANA ZAK: President Biden met with a bipartisan group of lawmakers, Wednesday, to discuss speeding up the government's efforts to end cancer. It's an initiative Mr. Biden has overseen since serving as vice president during the Obama administration. Skyler Henry is at the White House with the latest.

SKYLER HENRY: President Biden invited a group of bipartisan lawmakers to the Oval Office to talk about curing cancer.

JOE BIDEN: I think we're on the cusp of some real breakthroughs across the board on cancer.

SKYLER HENRY: The issue is likely to become a focus of the president's post-pandemic health agenda. The American Cancer Society estimates there will be 1.9 million new cases diagnosed in the US this year and more than 608,000 cancer deaths.

JOE BIDEN: Cancer is personal for almost everybody.

SKYLER HENRY: It's a cause close to the president's heart. The Biden's lost their 46-year-old son Beau to brain cancer in 2015. President Biden spearheaded the Cancer Moonshot federal initiative as vice president during the Obama administration.

JOE BIDEN: I'm going to devote the rest of my life to working on this.

SKYLER HENRY: Wednesday, he repeated a bold wish.

JOE BIDEN: I'd love to be the president to preside over and end the cancer as we know it.

SKYLER HENRY: The president and members of Congress are looking for ways to build on the work they've been doing and help end cancer.

LANA ZAK: The president is also pushing his COVID Relief Bill, which the Senate is expected to take up this week. For more, Skyler Henry, joins us from the White House. Skyler, the president delivered remarks to a virtual meeting of the House Democratic Caucus on Wednesday. Tell us about his message, specifically, on coronavirus relief.

SKYLER HENRY: Well, it's interesting, Lana. As he was getting ready to address that group of House Democratic lawmakers, he juxtaposed, this time, now versus what we experienced last year. Namely, the fact that we hadn't seen just how severe the COVID-19 pandemic would actually be on the country. And it was why he was enforcing so much, or actually, emphasizing is a better word why this American Rescue Plan is so important, namely, making sure that it is actually pushed through to get help out to the American people as soon as possible.

And part of that is something that we've heard from the President for weeks, if not months, now, and that is a message of unity, working together to try to get this rescue plan through. Granted, it is $1.9 trillion. We've seen Republicans balk at that number time and time again. But the president and Democrats feel as though that is the appropriate number to try to get as much help out to the American people as possible.

LANA ZAK: So Skyler, President Biden and moderate Senate Democrats have agreed to limit the eligibility for stimulus checks under this new bill. Talk to us a little bit about the new criteria, why the White House agreed to it, and to your point about bipartisanship, is it likely to engender more Republican support?

SKYLER HENRY: Well, in terms of Republican support, not so much. What the new criteria is, is that Americans, individuals, I should say, who make about $80,000 are eligible for this stimulus check. And couples who make about $160,000 would be eligible for the same. Now, that is different from what the House put together last Saturday in which individuals who made $100,000 would be eligible for the checks, and couples who made $200,000 would be eligible as well.

The thing is we knew Republicans were going to balk at this the entire time. Some of their points have been saying that we don't even know how much money has actually gone out from the rescue plan in December, but moderate Democrats are really who the president needed in his back pocket in order to get this rescue plan through. And he knew that some moderate Democrats in the Senate were concerned that some Americans who were making more money, and perhaps, weren't being nearly as impacted by the pandemic would still be receiving relief from the government.

So that number was lowered a little bit. We should also mention that where the president did not budge is unemployment insurance benefits. Those are set to expire on March 14. The president wanted to make sure that people who are eligible received about $400 a week.

Some moderate Democrats wanted that number to get down to about $300, but the president, adamant about keeping that number where it is. I mentioned that it's set to expire on March 14. Congress, working together. Democrats, scrambling, if you will, to try to get a bill onto the president's desk for him to sign to try to beat that March 14 deadline.

LANA ZAK: Well, the White House also announced a new initiative Wednesday, where it will work with health insurers to get high-risk groups of Americans vaccinated. Tell us, Skyler. How is this going to work?

SKYLER HENRY: Right, and so really, this is targeting underserved communities, African-American communities, Hispanic communities. And it was actually brought up a little bit earlier today during the White House press briefing, where, basically, insurance companies and health plans will be working to try to get somewhere around two million Americans vaccinated who are ages 65 or older in those communities. And really, this is going to try to work in terms of increasing transparency in these communities in terms of educating them on the safety and efficacy of the coronavirus vaccine, and really, working in those communities to try to organize things, such as booking appointments, such as organizing transportation to actually get individuals from their homes to vaccine centers in order to receive the vaccine, and then work to try to encourage other people to do so.

Obviously, this would go into the president's plan. We know where he stands on just trying to get as many Americans vaccinated as possible. 100 million vaccine doses into 100 million Americans arms in his first 100 days. We know that there are now three vaccines currently out there with Moderna, Pfizer, and now, Johnson and Johnson, this week. So now, these insurance companies are working alongside the White House to just try to make sure as many people are getting the vaccine as possible.

LANA ZAK: That's what we are hoping for, Skyler. Thank you.

SKYLER HENRY: You got it.