Biden defended the amount as ‘reasonable’ in a press availability Monday, as he continued his calls for ‘unity’ but also said it was possible to achieve unity on a party-line vote when bipartisanship isn’t available.
He picked the figure after House Democrats called for $2,000 checks but a bill negotiated in the last days of the Trump administration sent out $600 checks.
I’m open to negotiate those things’: President Joe Biden spoke about the $1,400 stimulus checks he wants to send out as part of his COVID relief package
‘We’ll have arguments. For example, you know, I propose that we – because it was bipartisan, I thought it would increase the prospects of passage, the additional $1,400 in direct cash payment to folks,’ he 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 or what? I’m open to negotiate those things,’ he said – raising the issue how and at what income levels to phase out the payments.
‘I picked it because I thought it was rational, reasonable, and it had overwhelming bipartisan support in the House when it passed. But this is all a bit of a moving target. In terms of precision with which this goes,’ said Biden.
As far as timing, he said: ‘I don’t expect we know we’ll have an agreement … until we get right to the very end of this process, which will probably happen in a couple of weeks.’
He touted his decades in the Senate negotiating legislation, as well as his role trying to scrape up votes for a stimulus package at the start of the Obama administration. That package ended up being a mostly Democratic affair despite the severity of the Great Recession.
Under House Democratic proposals, some of the checks would go to people earning more than $300,000 a year.
Biden wants the checks amid what his administration is warning is an unemployment cliff. He also wants funds to push out vaccines, ramp up testing, and reopen schools.
‘Time is of the essence,’ he said said. ‘I am reluctant to cherry-pick and take out one or two items here.’
Even five days into his administration, Biden is being confronted by both his own rhetoric, and familiar GOP opposition.
Republicans have begun to weigh in on the size and need for another stimulus, despite backing them under President Trump. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is holding up on an organizing resolution to set up committees in the Senate, demanding Democrats agree not to abolish the legislative filibuster.
A Senate impeachment trial for President Trump is taking on increased partisan overtones.
‘Unity also is trying to get at a minimum, if you pass a piece of legislation that breaks down on party lines but it gets passed, it doesn’t mean there wasn’t unity. It just means it wasn’t bipartisan,’ Biden said.
‘I prefer these things to be bipartisan because I’m trying to generate some consensus and take some of the how shall I say it, the vitriol out of all of this,’ he added.
Over the weekend, centrist Republicans like Maine’s Sen. Susan Collins
Senate Democrats also must decide what to include in ‘reconciliation’ legislation that could clear the Senate on a simple majority vote, versus trying to secure support of 10 Republicans to clear a 60-vote filibuster hurdle.