(Feb. 3) President Joe Biden told House Democrats on Wednesday that backing anything less than $1,400 stimulus checks would mean starting his presidency with a broken promise, according to people on the caucus conference call.
Biden said he was open to considering tighter eligibility requirements for stimulus checks but signaled he wasn’t willing to reduce the standard $1,400 payment outlined in his aid package, the people said.
Republican lawmakers have suggested both reducing the amount of the next round of stimulus checks and sending them to a smaller group of Americans. But shrinking the payment means Biden wouldn’t be able to deliver his campaign promise of $2,000 payments to many Americans, a total that would include previous $600 payments.
Senate Republicans have proposed issuing $1,000 payments for individuals earning up to $40,000 or couples making twice that, and completely phasing out the payments by $50,000 for singles or $100,000 for married couples.
Individuals earning up to $75,000 or couples making up to $150,000 were eligible for the full stimulus payments in the previous two rounds of coronavirus relief enacted last year. Above those levels, the payments phased out gradually.
Biden also told lawmakers he was more concerned that they would spend too little on a recovery package rather than too much, addressing reservations among some on Capitol Hill who say his proposal is too costly. He added that lawmakers should act quickly on his plan, which also includes billions for vaccine development and distribution along with a minimum wage hike.
Earlier Wednesday, Biden met at the White House with Democratic Senators Chris Coons and Tom Carper of Delaware.
“There’s a difference between compromising on principle and compromising on policy,” Carper said after the meeting. “The president’s not going to compromise on principle,” which is helping people in need, he said.
Biden is expected to welcome additional Democratic senators to the Oval Office later Wednesday. That group will include Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, and the top Democrats on committees related to budget matters, including Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden and Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders.
“Our caucus is eager to discuss next steps, and we are united in our resolve to deliver a rescue plan that delivers the American people the relief they so desperately need,” Schumer said Wednesday.
The sessions come a day after Senate Democrats put the $1.9 trillion stimulus plan on a fast track, increasing the likelihood it eventually passes on a party-line vote. And Biden met earlier this week with a group of 10 Republican senators to discuss their counter-proposal, though the talks did not yield a bipartisan agreement.
With a 50-49 vote Tuesday, the Senate opened debate on a budget resolution for the 2021 fiscal year, a maneuver that would clear the way for the president’s relief plan to pass in the chamber with a simple majority rather than the 60-vote threshold required for most legislation.
The Senate will take up final passage of the resolution on Thursday. The House is voting Wednesday on its version as well.
Schumer has said that the process, known as budget reconciliation, is open to GOP participation and the stimulus package can still be tweaked with their input. But he said Democrats won’t risk moving slowly or timidly to bolster the economy.
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