Top aides to President Biden have begun talks with a group of moderate Senate Republicans and Democrats on a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package as Biden faces increasing headwinds in his effort to win bipartisan backing for the initial legislative effort of his presidency.
Lawmakers on the right question the wisdom of racking up bigger deficits while those on the left are urging Biden not to spend too much time on bipartisanship when the pandemic is killing thousands of Americans each day and costing more jobs amid tightening restrictions in many communities.
The COVID-19 pandemic has killed more than 417,000 Americans, thrown millions out of work and is infecting more than 175,000 Americans per day, posing an immediate crisis to the Biden administration.
“The bottom line is this: We’re in a national emergency, and we need to act like we’re in a national emergency,” Biden said on Friday before signing executive orders on economic relief.
Outlining his package earlier this month, Biden said that while enacting it would not come cheaply, “failure to do so will cost us dearly.”
Although Biden’s Democratic Party narrowly controls the House of Representatives and #Senate, the legislation will likely need bipartisan support to become law.
Besides the price of the package, there is concern about a proposal to send $1,400 stimulus checks to most Americans, even some with fairly high incomes.
Biden has said he wants to unify a divided country. Trump’s tenure drew to a close with his second impeachment by the House after supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 in a deadly bid to overturn his election loss.
The push for coronavirus relief is complicated by Trump’s looming Senate impeachment, which not only threatens to deepen divisions between Democrats and Trump’s Republicans but could consume time that might be spent finalizing a package.
Senators said they hoped to pass legislation before the trial’s start during the week of Feb. 8.