President Joe Biden gave his strongest indication yet that he’ll push for swift action on coronavirus relief for the U.S. economy without Republican support, as House lawmakers cleared the way for passing his $1.9 trillion stimulus plan with only Democratic votes.
Highlighting his emphasis on speed, Biden signaled he was resigned to his minimum-wage hike not being a part of the bill. “Apparently, that’s not going to occur because of the rules of the United States Senate,” he said in a CBS interview. The $15 an hour proposal was panned by Republicans, who sought to block it in the Senate.
“If I have to choose between getting help right now to Americans who are hurting so badly and getting bogged down in a lengthy negotiation — or compromising on a bill that’s up to the crisis — that’s an easy choice,” Biden said in remarks Friday at the White House. “I’m going to act and I’m going to act fast.”
Both chambers of Congress have now passed a budget resolution, a key procedural step that sets up the ability for Democrats to pass President Joe Biden’s sweeping $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief package without the threat of a filibuster from Republicans who oppose it.
The Senate passed the budget resolution early Friday morning 51-50 on a party line vote after Vice President Kamala Harris showed up at the Capitol to break the tie. The House passed the resolution later in the day Friday. The House had already passed the budget measure earlier in the week, but because it was amended in the Senate it needed to go back to the House for a final vote.
Passage in the Senate followed hours of voting on amendments in an exhausting ritual known as a “vote-a-rama,” when senators can theoretically offer as many amendments to the budget resolution as they desire.
The budget resolution that passed is not the Covid relief bill. It simply sets the stage for Democrats to be able to use a process known as “budget reconciliation” to pass the relief bill on a party-line vote, possibly in late February or March, after the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump is complete in the Senate.
Embedded in the budget resolution are reconciliation instructions for multiple congressional committees to formally draft and approve legislation on things like funds for vaccine production and distribution, unemployment insurance, stimulus checks and more.
The House already passed the budget measure earlier in the week. But because it was amended in the Senate, the House had to revote on it Friday.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Friday that next week, they will begin working on the specifics of the bill, and predicted that the House will send a bill to the Senate “hopefully in a two week period of time,” so that “this will be done long before the due date” of the expiration of unemployment insurance in March.
Biden has said he is willing to go forward without the support of Republicans, but he’s also stressed that he’s willing to make certain concessions if it will earn bipartisan support.
Republicans are unhappy Democrats are resorting to the aggressive tactic, though, arguing it will set a partisan tone for the rest of Biden’s presidency and that he’s not operating as the political unifier he pledged to be.
The 10 Senate Republicans who met with the President to discuss his relief package are pushing for talks to continue, sending a letter to the White House. “We remain committed to working in a bipartisan fashion and hope that you will take into account our views as the legislative process moves forward,” the group, led by Maine Sen. Susan Collins, said.
(picture: ABC 7)