Biden willing to make concessions on pandemic stimulus plan
Washington, Feb 3 (efe-epa).- President Joe Biden on Wednesday said that he is open to making concessions on the $1.9 trillion stimulus plan he has proposed to Congress to revive the hard-hit US economy and deal with the coronavirus pandemic.
Biden stuck to his idea to provide Americans with a one-time payment of $1,400 with the aim of injecting liquidity into the economy, although he opened the door to changing the requirements regarding who will receive that assistance, a move that would reduce the number of beneficiaries.
Under the current Democratic proposal, each American earning less than $75,000 per year would receive those checks, something that the Republican opposition considers to be wasteful because, in their judgment, some people who do not actually need it would receive the aid.
In a Wednesday telephone conference call, Biden told House Democrats that he is still committed to a large relief package, but he also said he’s willing to negotiate.
“You have my back, I’ll have yours,” the president said, according to sources privy to the call.
“The biggest danger isn’t that we go too big, it’s that we go too small,” he reportedly said on the call, adding “We made a promise to the people and I’m not going to start off my presidency by breaking a promise.”
“Look, we got a lot of people hurting in our country today,” Biden said. “We need to act. We need to act fast. We need to restore the soul of the country.”
Later, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki sid that Biden is refusing to reduce the $1,400 amount but he is open to discussing who should receive the assistance.
Earlier this week, a group of 10 moderate GOP senators headed by Susan Collins of Maine proposed to the president – whom met with them on Monday at the White House – a $618 billion stimulus plan, less than one-third the $1.9 trillion that congressional Democrats are demanding.
That Republican plan includes direct payments to Americans of $1,000 rather than $1,400 and would limit the payment to people earning less than $50,000 per year.
Biden has said that the $618 billion proposal is insufficient, but he made clear that he wants to work with Republicans so that the stimulus plan will have bipartisan support in an attempt to jettison the political polarization of the past few years.
Meanwhile, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell criticized Democrats for pushing forward largely on their own, saying that he had spoken to Biden before the president met with the 10 GOP senators.
“They’ve chosen a totally partisan path,” McConnell said. “That’s unfortunate.”
In remarks to the press at the White House, Biden said on Wednesday that he was convinced that the rescue package will be approved with “some” Republican votes.
However, Democrats, who hold a majority in both houses of Congress, want to approve the rescue plan as soon as possible, saying that Americans are hurting and need help now.
Many Democratic lawmakers fear a repeat of the paralysis that gripped the Democratic Party in 2009, when then-President Barack Obama spent too much time trying to reach an agreement with Republicans and then, in the end, had to act with only Democratic support to rescue the US economy.
Therefore, although Biden is trying to build bridges, Senate Democrats on Tuesday began the process to begin debate on their aid proposal with or without Republican support.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and 10 of his fellow Democrats met for an hour-and-a-half on Wednesday with Biden to discuss the matter.
After the meeting, Schumer told reporters that he was ready to work with his “Republican friends” whenever possible.
He said that he and his Democratic colleagues want the package to have bipartisan support but they also want it to be strong and not to have it delayed or diluted.