Biden refuses to cave to Republican pressure on $1.9tn Covid proposal

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Joe Biden is plowing ahead with his $1.9trn Covid proposal — whether Republicans join him or not. (Getty Images)
Joe Biden is plowing ahead with his $1.9trn Covid proposal — whether Republicans join him or not. (Getty Images)

In yet another sign that he intends to plow ahead with his $1.9 trillion Covid-relief plan, Joe Biden told House Democrats on a call on Wednesday “it’s not in the cards” to whittle down that proposal to the $618bn outline the GOP has put together.

“I’m not going to start my administration by breaking a promise to the American people,” Mr Biden said on the call with the House Democratic caucus, CNN reported.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Speaker Nancy Pelosi initiated the so-called “budget reconciliation” process earlier this week that will allow Senate Democrats, who control a 50-50 Senate by virtue of Vice President Kamala Harris’ tiebreaker vote, to pass the administration’s massive Covid aid package on a simple majority basis, side-stepping the Senate’s traditional 60-vote threshold.

“We're moving forward under the reconciliation. That is what President Biden wants us to do, and that is what we're doing,” Mr Schumer told reporters on Tuesday, after wrapping up a lunchtime meeting with his caucus. Mr Biden and his Treasury secretary, Janet Yellen, also attended the virtual meeting.

Mr Schumer confirmed to Capitol Hill press multiple times at his news conference that Mr Biden had given him explicit consent to move forward with the partisan legislative process, which will use what is known as a “joint budget resolution” as a vehicle to pass the Covid-relief bill.

“Joe Biden is totally on board with using reconciliation. I've been talking to him every day. Our staffs have been talking multiple times a day. And I believe that we will pass the resolution this afternoon,” Mr Schumer said.

The Senate passed that budget resolution on a party-line 50-49 vote on Tuesday.

A group of 10 Republican senators, led by Maine’s Susan Collins, met with Mr Biden for two hours on Monday evening to urge him to negotiate with them on a bipartisan compromise bill.

But Democrats in Washington across the board believe the GOP’s counter-proposal, with a top-line price tag of $618bn, less than a third of Mr Biden’s package, is woefully inadequate.

Mr Biden, Ms Yellen, and Senate Democrats all agreed on Tuesday that “if we did a package that small, we'd be mired in the Covid crisis for years”, Mr Schumer said.

“We share President Biden's desire to advance this legislation in a bipartisan way. But the work must move forward. We are not going to dilute, dither, or delay.”

The White House on Tuesday confirmed that Mr Biden told Republicans at the Oval Office on Monday their plan was “way too small”.

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