In his first full week in the White House, President Joe Biden is facing the challenge of securing bipartisan approval to pass his $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief deal, as reported by ABC News. The major hurdle is the bill's large price tag, which has drawn recent criticism from both moderate Republicans and Democrats. Members of his administration -- top economic adviser Brian Deese, legislative affairs director Louisa Terrell and coronavirus coordinator Jeffrey Zeints -- met on Sunday with a group of 16 such senators and the bipartisan House Problem Solvers Caucus in an effort to assuage any concerns and ensure the president's preferred method of passing it with GOP approval.
When asked about the meeting on Monday, Biden remained confident that the relief will be approved with support from both sides, but acknowledged that negotiations are only starting and it may take weeks before it is signed into law. He also downplayed any potential efforts of passing portions of the bill -- such as stimulus checks -- before securing the full deal.
"I don't expect we'll know whether we have an agreement and to what extent the entire package will be able to pass or not pass until we get right down to the very end of this process, which will be probably in a couple of weeks. Time is of the essence. Time is of the essence. And I must tell you, I'm reluctant to cherry-pick and take out one or two items here, and then have to go through it again because these all are kind of -- they, they go sort of hand in glove, each of these issues."
The $1,400 stimulus checks have proven to be a particular sticking point for Republicans, with 10 required to ensure bipartisan approval in the Senate. A source familiar with the meeting claims that the moderates requested a more targeted manner of relief that would focus on those most in need. There are also issues with passing a bill of such a size so quickly after December's $900 billion aid package.
Some Democrats are encouraging an alternative process called "budget reconciliation." If done in this matter, it could potentially be approved without any Republican support, as it requires only a majority vote. However, with the Senate evenly split, it would still need the support of the more conservative Democrats.
Most notable among those is Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who said on Friday that he would prefer that the focus is placed on vaccinations ahead of direct payments.