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WASHINGTON — President Biden is “totally on board” with Democrats using the rare tactic of reconciliation to ram his $1.9 trillion coronavirus rescue plan through Congress without any Republican support, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Tuesday.
The White House has repeatedly insisted that Biden’s big-spending bailout is bipartisan and pointed to his Oval Office meeting with 10 Republican lawmakers on Monday evening as an example of that.
But speaking to reporters on Tuesday afternoon, Schumer said Biden was not interested in the GOP’s $618 billion counter-offer and vowed Democrats would push ahead to pass the bill without Republican support.
“[H]e told Senate Republicans that the $600 billion that they proposed was way too small,” Schumer said of the White House meeting.
“We share President Biden’s desire to advance this legislation in a bipartisan way but the work must move forward. We are not going to dilute, dither or delay,” he went on.
Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced on Monday evening that they would introduce a resolution with a provision known as “budget reconciliation,” clearing the path for them to pass Biden’s enormous bailout and override any GOP concerns about the package’s price tag.
The resolution narrowly passed the Senate with a 50-49 vote after the entire Democratic caucus voted in favor of it, including West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin who last week lashed Vice President Kamala Harris for pressuring him to back Biden’s huge bill.
Biden met with GOP lawmakers in the Oval Office for two hours on Monday after they requested a meeting but Sen. Susan Collins of Maine admitted afterward that the two sides were still far apart.
Biden’s stimulus package calls for payments of $1,400 to all Americans caught up in the financial crisis created by the pandemic, while the GOP plan calls for $1,000 checks and does not include funding for state and local governments.
The reconciliation process will allow Democrats to pass Biden’s package with a simple majority vote in both chambers and override any Republican filibuster.
The rare tactic would allow for the legislation to pass in the Senate with a simple majority of 50, plus Harris’ tie-breaking vote, rather than the 60 votes normally required.
This would clear the path for House and Senate committees to begin crafting pieces of legislation which the two chambers would then vote on and send to Biden’s desk for his signature.
While Biden has insisted his presidency is focused on “unity,” Democrats’ decision to plough ahead with reconciliation has angered Republicans — and at least one Democrat — who feel railroaded by Biden, Schumer and Pelosi.
White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki and Schumer have made clear that Biden is not willing to deviate from his $1.9 trillion price tag, even as conservatives raise concerns about the ballooning national debt.
“We hope Republicans will join us, but we are not going to dilute this so it doesn’t help the American people get out of this crisis quickly,” Schumer told reporters.
President Biden’s top economic adviser Brian Deese warned last month that “without decisive action, we risk falling into a very serious economic hole,” while Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has also called on Congress to “go big.”
Psaki has also pushed back on suggestions from reporters that Biden is “abandoning his hope for bipartisanship,” and at her daily briefings has suggested that Republicans could be included even as Democrats look to quell their dissent.
“As we look to the weeks ahead, Republicans can engage and see their ideas adopted at any point in the process. A bipartisan bill can pass on the floor,” she said Tuesday.
“So just creating the option for reconciliation with a budget resolution does not foreclose other legislative options,” she said.