[Third Stimulus UPDATE] Biden fights to keep the $1400 Stimulus

Joe Biden, making his first official trip as president, said Monday that he was not interested in reducing the size of his $1.9 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill, which includes $1,400 direct payments to Americans.

“The vast majority of the serious people say bigger is better now, not spending less,” Biden said at a CNN town hall in Wisconsin, one of the states that backed Donald Trump in 2016 but flipped in 2020 to the Democrat.

Biden rejected a proposal by 10 Senate Republicans to reduce the size of the package by more than two-thirds, and is willing to enact the measure with only Democratic votes.

A study by S&P Global found that the $1.9 trillion package would restore the U.S. economy to pre-pandemic levels by the second quarter of this year while the Brookings Institution, a Washington research organization, said it would bring back the economy to pre-pandemic levels in the third quarter.

“There is consensus among economists, left, right snd center, that overwhelming consensus is in order to grow the economy, we cant spent too much,” Biden said. “Now is the time we should be spending. Now is the time to go big.”

– photo shows blank checks on an idle press at the Philadelphia Regional Financial Center, which disburses payments on behalf of federal agencies, in Philadelphia.AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File Matt Rourke AP

He spoke about his efforts in 2009 to negotiate a stimulus bill in response to the Great Recession and scaled back spending to attract Republican support. But the limited spending resulted in a more tepid recovery.

Biden acknowledged that small business owners had a legitimate concern with his proposal to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, but said it could be phased in very slowly as to not have a major impact on their bottom line. New Jersey will have a $15 an hour minimum wage in 2026 except for restaurant workers.

“It’s about doing it gradually,” Biden said “No one who works 40 hours a week should live in poverty.”

And he said that there was $60 billion in the stimulus bill earmarked to help small businesses get through the pandemic.

The legislation now is before the House Budget Committee, which will combine the different sections of the bill into a single measure expected to pass the House before the end of the month.

The stimulus bill includes $1,400 checks for individuals earning up to $75,000 and $2,800 for couples earning up to $150,000. The payments would end for individuals earning more than $100,000 and couples making more than $200,000.

The budget committee is involved because the Democratic-controlled Congress is considering the stimulus legislation under a procedure known as reconciliation, which will allow it to pass by a simple majority rather than need 60 votes to overcome a Senate filibuster.

That’s the same procedure used by Republicans when they controlled Congress in 2017 to cut taxes and fall just one vote short of repealing the Affordable Care Act over unanimous Democratic objections.

This time around, GOP lawmakers are the ones deriding the effort to approve legislation through reconciliation, on Monday introduced a resolution to delay passage of the latest stimulus bill.

“It would be irresponsible to pass trillions more in spending when Congress does not even have a thorough and accurate accounting of the trillions of dollars already approved,” said Rep. Jason Smith of Missouri, the top Republican on the House Budget Committee.

Still, strong majorities of Americans support the legislation even if congressional Republicans do not.

In a Quinnipiac University poll released earlier this month, 68% of Americans, including 37% of self-described Republicans, backed the stimulus package while only 24% opposed it. The $1,400 checks were favored by 78% to 18%, including 64% of Republicans.

“The vast majority of the American people like what they see in this package,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said at her daily press briefing Monday. “And that should be an indication, or should be noted by members of Congress as they consider whether they’re going to vote for it or not.”

Biden says 3rd Stimulus will be $1400 period. Updates Here …

President Joe Biden on Friday said he would not reduce the proposed $1,400 direct payments as final House passage of a budget resolution meant lawmakers could start drafting the $1.9 trillion coronavirus stimulus legislation.

Speaking at the White House, Biden said the new checks, combined with the $600 payments approved in December. would give most Americans the $2,000 he promised. A group of 10 House Republicans proposed reducing the latest round of checks to $1,000.

“I’m not cutting the size of the checks,” Biden said. “They’re going to be $1,400. Period. That’s what the American people were promised.”

Biden spoke after the House approved a budget resolution mostly along party lines, 219-209, allowing whatever bill Congress produces to be passed by majority vote, without the threat of a filibuster.

While no Republican in either the House or Senate voted for the resolution, several GOP or bipartisan amendments were included. Biden said he was willing to negotiate with the Republicans for their support, but wanted quick approval of the bill. The goal is to pass it by mid-March, when the current extended unemployment insurance benefits expire.

“I’ve told both Republicans and Democrats that’s my preference: to work together,” Biden said. “But if I have to choose between getting help right now to Americans who are hurting so badly and getting bogged down in a lengthy negotiation or compromising on a bill that’s up to the crisis, that’s an easy choice. I’m going to help the American people who are hurting now.”

Adding a sense of urgency Friday was a U.S. Labor Department report showing that the economy added just 49,000 jobs last month after losing 227,000 jobs in December.

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“It’s clear that there’s a need for urgent and sustained action for the duration of this crisis,” said Jared Bernstein, a member of the White House Council of Economic Advisers.

In its recent report, Moody’s Analytics said Biden’s plan “would provide a large boost to the economy if passed into law” and help create 7.5 million jobs this year and another 2.5 million next year, fully recovering all the jobs lost since the pandemic hit.

While Biden has refused to break apart the package, a bipartisan group of more moderate lawmakers recommended Friday that he do just that. The Problem Solvers Caucus, co-chaired by New Jersey Rep. Josh Gottheimer, called for quick approval of $160 billion for vaccines, while the discussions continued on rest of the bill.

“We simply cannot afford to wait weeks upon weeks to get more vaccines out the door,” said Gottheimer, D-5th Dist.

Gov. Phil Murphy, meanwhile, joined New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in laying claim to a portion of the proposal’s $350 billion in state and local aid commensurate with the fact that both states were among the ones hardest hit by the coronavirus when it first came to this country.

“We were clobbered,” Murphy said.

Cuomo said that when a disaster strikes, the areas most damaged get the most aid. That should happen here, he said.

“When a state gets hit by a hurricane, that state gets relief,” Cuomo said. “It’s not that every state gets relief. Our state and our region paid the highest price.”

Democratic U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez will be one of the senators helping to write the formula for distributing federal COVID assistance to state and local governments.

“The governors were absolutely right that we should be treating COVID aid like federal disaster assistance after a hurricane in which you target resources to the hardest-hit areas,” Menendez said. “New Jersey has been one of the hardest-hit states and we need the federal government to step up in a big way.”

SOURCE: Jonathan D. Salant AT https://www.nj.com/coronavirus/2021/02/third-stimulus-check-update-biden-says-payments-will-be-1400-period-now-congress-will-draft-legislation-heres-the-latest.html