During a call with House Democrats on Wednesday, President Joe Biden reiterated his commitment to boosting the second round of stimulus checks to $2,000 by sending out $1,400 in direct payments to the majority of Americans, as reported by The Hill. Still, the president did express a willingness to potentially tighten restrictions on income eligibility for those receiving the checks. During the last round of coronavirus relief, which saw $600 checks sent out, individuals earning below $75,000 and couples making less than $150,000 were eligible for the full amount.
"We can't walk away from an additional $1,400 in direct checks that we proposed because the people need them," Biden told the House Democrats, according to the report. "We can better target them, but I'm not going to start my administration by breaking a promise to the American people."
During his five-minute call with Democrats, Biden did not take questions but urged lawmakers to "go big." He encouraged them to stick together and pass his $1.9 trillion bill, and promised that there would be no shift to supporting the alternative $618 billion bill put forward by 10 Republican senators.
"I'll have your back. I ask that you have mine," Biden said during the call.
Speaking to reporters later on Wednesday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki clarified that the $1,400 amount is not up for debate, and the only restrictions would be related to income level.
"Further targeting means not the size of the check, it means the income level of people who receive the check and that's something that has been under discussion. There hasn't been a conclusion but certainly he's open to having that discussion," she told reporters.
The president met with Senate Democrats in the White House later on Wednesday as he continued to build a united front of support for the American Rescue Plan, the name of Biden's health and economic relief package. Alongside the stimulus checks, the plan will include $400 billion for vaccines, testing and other measures to address the coronavirus pandemic and reopen schools; $350 billion for cities, states and tribal governments; billions for small businesses, rental assistance and increasing unemployment insurance; along with the federal minimum wage rising to $15 an hour.
This week, Democratic lawmakers in the House and Senate are expected to pass a budget resolution that would allow them to pass the coronavirus legislation with a majority. Given that the Senate is split 50-50, Republican support would not be required to approve the relief. While it should get through the House without trouble, it may face some issues in the Senate. Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia has voiced concerns about some aspects, specifically the raising of the minimum wage.