WH: Risk is 'going too small' on COVID relief bill

White House press secretary Jen Psaki says President Joe Biden's Oval Office meeting with 10 Senate Republicans on a COVID relief package is an opportunity for a bipartisan "exchange of ideas," but Biden believes the risk is "going too small." (Feb. 1)

Video Transcript

JEN PSAKI: Hi, everyone.

- Hello.

- Hello.

JEN PSAKI: Happy Monday.

- You too.

- Happy Monday.

JEN PSAKI: Well, the president has been clear since long before he came into office that he's open to engaging with both Democrats and Republicans in Congress about their ideas. And this is an example of doing exactly that. So as we said in our statement last night, it's an exchange of ideas, an opportunity to do that.

This group obviously sent a letter with some outlines, some top lines of their concerns and their priorities and he's happy to have a conversation with them. What this meeting is not is a forum for the president to make or accept an offer. So I think that's important to convey to all of you.

- Let's bottom line it. Is $618 billion considered large by the White House?

JEN PSAKI: Well, I think our statement last night made clear that the president believes that the risk is not being too-- going too small, but going-- going not big enough. And that his view is that the size of the package needs to be commensurate with the crises we're facing. That's why he proposed 1.9 trillion.

There's obviously a big gap between $600 billion and 1.9 trillion. I don't think any of us are mathematicians, otherwise we wouldn't be here, but we can all state that clearly. And so clearly, he thinks the package size needs to be closer to what he proposed than smaller.

- And is the--

- Is it going big or going bipartisan? It seems like you can't have both.

JEN PSAKI: It's important to him that he hears this group out on their concerns, on their ideas. He's always open to making this package stronger. And he also, as was noted in our statement last night, remains in close touch with Speaker Pelosi, with Leader Schumer, and he will continue that engagement throughout the day and in the days ahead.

- How if the White House would support actions like those to address the situation?

JEN PSAKI: Well, as we've noted in here several times before, but I just want to reiterate, obviously, this is under the purview of the SEC in terms of their review and monitoring. But this is-- there is an important set of policy issues that have been raised as a result of market volatility in recent days. And we think congressional attention to these issues is appropriate and would welcome working with Congress moving forward as we dig into these further policy issues. But I don't have anything further to predict for you other than we certainly welcome the opportunity to work with members who have proposed ideas.

- Have there been any direct engagement with those members so far? Have there been any direct engagement with those members so far and what they propose?

JEN PSAKI: The SEC is looking carefully at recent activities. And if they're consistent with investor protection and fair and efficient markets, that's where we think the purview is and the focus is at this point in time. Go ahead.

- If I can ask one follow up on the meeting--

JEN PSAKI: Support a bipartisan package and whether that gives them space, but--