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.”
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.”