President Joe Biden suggested he’s open negotiating the conditions on his proposed $1,400 stimulus payments after most Senate Republicans and some Democrats said the relief should be targeted on lower-income families.
Speaking on Monday, the Democratic president reiterated that the United States is in a precarious situation and said relief is needed.
“Time is of the essence,” Biden said of passing the $1.9 trillion package. “I am reluctant to cherry-pick and take out one or two items here.”
Biden noted there will be disagreements on the size of the package, coming after he proposed the $1,400 checks.
“We’re going to have arguments. For example, I proposed that, because it was bipartisan it would increase the prospects of passage, the additional $1,400 in direct cash payments to folks,” Biden said. “Well there’s legitimate reason for people to say, ‘Do you have the lines drawn the exact right way? Should it go to anybody making over ‘X’ number of dollars?’ I’m open to negotiate those things.”
Biden said that he decided on the $1,400 amount “because I thought it was rational, reasonable, and it had overwhelming bipartisan support in the House when it passed.”
White House officials confirmed that the president’s team on Sunday spoke to at least a dozen senators on Sunday.
“There’s an urgency to moving it forward, and he certainly believes there has to be progress in the next couple of weeks,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday, adding that action is needed before the United States reaches its “unemployment cliff” next month when expanded unemployment benefits expire for millions of people.
Biden’s comments regarding $1,400 stimulus payments seemingly was a nod to concerns expressed in public and private by Senate Republicans and some Democrats. The last stimulus package totaled $900 billion and included $600 payments.
“Experts and economists from the left to the right agree any further action should be smart and targeted, not just an imprecise deluge of borrowed money that would direct huge sums to those who don’t need it,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on the floor of the upper chamber on Monday. “That’s why the administration’s first draft of their sprawling proposal misses the mark, and press reports make clear this is not just a Republican view.”
Separately, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) said he told White House officials on Sunday that direct stimulus payments should go out to families who need them the most.
“If we’re looking at a family of five that could have literally $300,000 of income and if that family of five has not lost a job or had any economic hardship and we’re saying we want to give checks to that family, but then cut back on unemployment for people who are in great need, that does not seem to me to be a very progressive outcome,” Warner said, according to local station WVIR.
Another Democrat who has publicly balked at the stimulus package is Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who argued for targeted relief.