- Biden indicated he’s prepared to pass his $1.9 trillion stimulus package with only Democratic votes.
- Republicans are “just not willing to go as far as I think we have to go,” the president said.
- He suggested that negotiations risked delaying the delivery of urgently needed federal aid.
President Joe Biden on Friday gave one of the strongest indications yet that he was prepared to pass his $1.9 trillion emergency spending package with only Democratic votes.
Biden said in remarks at the White House that he wanted to “act fast” and emphasized that his plan was designed to address the immense challenges facing the nation.
“I’d like to be doing it with the support of Republicans. I’ve met with Republicans — there’s some really fine people who want to get something done,” he said. “But they’re just not willing to go as far as I think we have to go.”
Biden continued: “I’ve told both Republicans and Democrats that’s my preference: to work together. 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.”
The remarks appeared to reflect a new willingness from the president to abandon talks with Republicans to get his rescue package approved faster. It could mark a signal moment in the early days of his administration given Biden pledged on the campaign trail to cut deals with the GOP and restore bipartisanship.
Democrats kicked off efforts this week to pass the plan through budget reconciliation. It’s a legislative maneuver allowing for the approval of a bill with a simple majority of 51 votes instead of the 60 generally required in the Senate.
The plan includes $1,400 stimulus checks, $400 federal unemployment benefits through September, and assistance to state and local governments, among other provisions. Republicans have strongly opposed it, arguing it is a colossal level of untargeted spending on progressive priorities.
Democrats wield control of the evenly-divided Senate because Vice President Kamala Harris casts the tie-breaking vote. She was the tie-breaker early Friday morning as the Senate concluded a raucous vote-a-rama and approved a resolution that brought Democrats another step closer to securing the passage of Biden’s plan without Republicans.
Until now, the White House has courted a group of 10 Republican senators to add a layer of bipartisanship to the relief effort. The group, led by Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, put forward a $618 billion measure on Monday, but Democrats rejected it as too meager.
The senators said in a letter to the White House on Thursday that they “remain committed to working in a bipartisan fashion and hope that you will take into account our views as the legislative process moves forward.”
Senior administration officials have all but dismissed their plan at this stage.
“We’re not going to sit here and wait for an ongoing negotiation,” the White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, said at a briefing on Friday. “Frankly we haven’t received an offer in return, a response offer to what the president has proposed.”
It was unclear whether the GOP senators would attempt to continue negotiations with the White House.