A bipartisan group of 16 senators told the Biden administration’s top CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus official Sunday that the administration’s pandemic relief proposal does not focus enough on low-income families.
The senators set up a conference call, organized by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), with Jeff Zients, Biden’s coronavirus coordinator, and Louisa Terrell, head of White House legislative affairs on Sunday afternoon. It was apparently the first dialogue between the centrist group and the Biden administration.
Manchin has been skeptical of the purpose of a third stimulus check and voiced opposition to a proposed $2,000 payment plan in early January.
“How is the money that we invest now going to help us best to get jobs back and get people employed? And I can’t tell you that sending another check out is gonna do that to a person that’s already got a check,” Manchin told CNN on Jan. 10.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), stressed that the relief should focus on lower-income workers, and questioned why Biden’s proposal would provide relief to families with an income of over $300,000.
“I was the first to raise that issue, but there seemed to be a lot of agreement … that those payments need to be more targeted”, “I would say that it was not clear to me how the administration came up with its $1.9 trillion figure for the package,” Collins told Politico.
Biden administration proposed a $1.9 trillion package, including a one-time payment of $1,400 Americans, a minimum wage increase to $15 per hour, an extension of unemployment benefits through September, $20 billion for vaccine distribution enhancement, an Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit extension, and $350 billion in extra funding for state and local governments.
Collins stated that the grand total concerns her and her bipartisan group, which played a pivotal role in passing the $900 billion package bill in December. Collins suggested that the administration work with Congress in a bipartisan way to move forward quickly.
Politico reported that Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) also questioned the lump-sum. “This isn’t monopoly money,” he said, adding that the administration faces a fundamental question: if they “want to work on the negotiation of a bipartisan proposal or do they want to try to move the larger package through reconciliation.”
Biden’s proposal will likely fail to pass the Senate due to the 60-vote threshold needed if they don’t change the purpose significantly. Democrats could circumvent the 60-v0te threshold and pass the bill in the Senate with a simple majority by employing the “budget reconciliation” process and using Vice President Kamala Harris to break any tie. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Wednesday that “we are not going to take any tools off the table.”