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Joe Biden says he's willing to adjust income thresholds for stimulus checks in the new relief package

Joseph Zeballos-Roig
·4 min read
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  • Joe Biden on Monday seemed willing to negotiate an aspect of the new coronavirus relief package.

  • He said there was "legitimate reason" to question the income thresholds for direct payments.

  • He also didn't rule out using reconciliation but said "time is of the essence" in negotiations.

  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

President Joe Biden on Monday said he was open to altering the income thresholds for a fresh wave of direct payments to Americans, a key demand among some moderate senators reluctant to back his coronavirus rescue package.

"There's legitimate reason for people to say: 'Do you have the lines drawn the exact right way? Should it go to anybody making over X number of dollars or why?'" Biden said at a press conference. "I'm open to negotiate those things."

Biden said he included more stimulus checks in his $1.9 trillion proposal because they drew support from Democrats and some Republicans last year. His predecessor, President Donald Trump, demanded a higher cash amount in a frenzied last-minute push in December.

Biden said he was hesitant to "cherry-pick" provisions that could be made into a smaller emergency-spending plan, saying they go "hand in glove." He insisted that "time is of the essence."

Read more: Joe Biden is hiring about 4,000 political staffers to work in his administration. Here's how 3 experts say you can boost your chances of getting one of those jobs.

The remarks indicate Biden is willing to modify elements of his rescue package to garner GOP support, though he didn't delve into more specifics on the parameters for a third wave of payments. His plan includes a provision for $1,400 direct payments, bringing to $2,000 the total recent amount for many recipients after a round of $600 payments was sent out in December.

Earlier last year, Congress passed a pandemic relief package that included $1,200 direct payments. Individuals earning up to $75,000 qualified for the full amount, which decreased until the cutoff at $99,000. Married couples making up to $150,000 also received the federal payment.

Some economists have criticized the stimulus checks because they've also been sent to higher earners who didn't lose their jobs. The House approved a plan for $2,000 payments in December, with income thresholds raised along with the cash amount. Those payments, for example, would fully phase out for single adults earning $115,000.

Republicans are lining up against the Biden package, including key centrists such as Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah. Both are part of a bipartisan group of 16 senators who held a weekend call with the White House about the rescue plan. They raised concern about direct payments going to well-off Americans.

Biden on Monday didn't rule out using a budgetary process called reconciliation to go around Republicans and enact a rescue package in a majority party-line vote.

"The decision to use reconciliation will depend upon how these negotiations go," he said. "I don't expect we'll know whether we have an agreement or to what extent the entire package will be able to pass or not pass until we get right down to the very end of this process, which will be probably in a couple of weeks."

It's becoming more likely that renewed federal aid may not be approved for several more weeks. The White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, on Monday said Congress should approve another government rescue package by the middle of March to avoid a lapse in unemployment benefits for millions of Americans.

"There's an urgency to moving it forward and he certainly believes there needs to be progress in the next couple of weeks," Psaki said. She also referred to the "unemployment cliff" in the middle of March as an apparent deadline for legislative action.

Congress passed a $900 billion economic-assistance plan last month to renew these federal measures. Currently, about 11.4 million people receive benefits from the set of programs that start to expire March 14.

Unemployment experts say Congress must step in with an extension by February 14 to prevent another lapse.

Read the original article on Business Insider