On Tuesday, President Joe Biden and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen joined Democratic senators for a private virtual meeting, following their meeting on Monday with Republican lawmakers to discuss the GOP alternative to his $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill, as reported by the Associated Press. Biden and Yellen determined that the Republican bill and its price tag of $618 billion was too small to address the health and economic crises, and called on the senators to continue their efforts to pass his legislation.
With extra unemployment assistance and other pandemic aid expiring in March, the Biden administration is under pressure to secure relief as soon as possible. Democrats took advantage of their Senate majority, voting 50-49 to begin the process of approving the $1.9 trillion bill without support from Republicans. Following the meeting, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer revealed that the president called on him and his Senate colleagues to act "boldly and quickly."
"If we did a package that small, we'd be mired in the COVID crisis for years," Schumer said, describing the bill submitted by Republicans.
During the virtual meeting, Biden emphasized the need to not forget about working and middle-class families who are struggling as a result of the pandemic. The report details that the president referenced nurses and pipefitters making $150,000 for a family of four, a potential criticism of efforts by the GOP and some centrist Democrats to place more constraints on the $1,400 stimulus checks included in the larger relief bill. The alternative bill offered $1,000 in direct aid and was primarily focused on addressing health care needs, cutting out initiatives addressing households, local governments and the partially shuttered economy.
Despite the failure to reach a compromise during the Monday meeting, which saw Biden tell those gathered that their alternative wasn't enough and he was not willing to delay relief in order to gain GOP support, the administration is continuing private talks with Republicans as Democrats pursue their legislative push.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell criticized Biden and the Democrat's decision to take a "partisan path" in passing relief, calling it "unfortunate." He revealed that he had spoken with Biden privately about the bill before Monday.
Press secretary Jen Psaki shared Biden's view that passing a bill that is too small is far riskier for the future than passing one that is too large. She added that the decision to press forward does not mean they would not be receptive to ideas from Republicans and welcomed then to participate. However, she noted that doesn't mean denying non-negotiable relief or slowing down the bill's passing.
"We need to make sure people get the relief they need," Psaki said.