White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki and National Economic Council Director Brian Deese held a press briefing on President Joe Biden’s second full day in office.
Psaki and Deese discussed the president’s $1.9 trillion dollar coronavirus economic relief plan. The package includes $400 billion to stop the spread of COVID-19 and increase vaccine distribution; over $1 trillion to assist families needing direct financial support; and $440 billion in emergency funds for cash-poor small businesses and communities. The White House’s plan, which Mr. Biden said he plans to send to Congress soon, includes additional $1,400 direct payments to most Americans, on top of the $600 payments approved in December under the previous Congress.
A bipartisan group of senators is planning to meet with Deese in the coming days to discuss the next round of federal aid, according to lawmakers and sources familiar with the matter.
While the plan has garnered widespread Democratic support, Republicans have previously balked at stimulus bills proposed in the House with such high price tags.
Deese addressed criticism from some Republicans that the federal government has already provided sufficient relief through its previous package. President Joe Biden’s top economic aide told reporters that the previous relief came after months of inaction, and was merely “filling a hole.” He said there is not an issue of “acting too much,” and called the president’s plan an “appropriate response to an unprecedented economic circumstance.”
If the bill is unable to attract enough support from Republicans, Democrats have a couple of options: they may pass it through the budget reconciliation process or by eliminating the legislative filibuster. Most bills require 60 votes in the Senate to end debate and set up a full vote on the Senate floor. A filibuster occurs when a bill doesn’t receive 60 votes to end debate.
Psaki said during her first press briefing on Wednesday that Mr. Biden’s “clear preference is to move forward with a bipartisan bill.”
“But we are also not going to take any tools off the table for how the Senate, the House and Senate can get this urgent package done,” Psaki said.
The press secretary answered questions on Friday about the Senate’s undertaking of an impeachment trial while COVID relief package negotiations are ongoing. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Friday that the House will send the article of impeachment against former President Trump to the Senate on Monday. Republican Senate leadership has attempted to delay the start of the trial until February, arguing that it will be rushed.
Psaki said the president has confidence that the Senate can “walk and chew gum at the same time,” noting the “recent precedent” of Mr. Trump’s first impeachment trial, which the Senate was able to take on while also conducting regular business.
“What cannot be delayed,” she said, is providing relief to the American people.