Biden wants swift passage of $ 1.9 billion COVID-19 relief plan, but minimum wage hike uncertain

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President Joe Biden presented his case on Friday for moving quickly to surpass $ 1.9 trillion in coronavirus relief, but even as he opened the door to a Republicans-free proceeding, he acknowledged that one element key to his plan – raising the minimum wage to $ 15 an hour – was unlikely to become law.

The stakes for the country and the economy were amplified on Friday morning by the publication of the government’s employment report for January, which showed that hiring had stalled at a rate that could hamper a return to full employment for several years. Some 406,000 people left the workforce last month as deaths from the pandemic soared.

“A lot of people are losing hope,” Biden said in a White House speech. “I believe the American people are looking to their government right now for help, to do our job, not to let them down. So I will act. I will act quickly. I’d love to do it with the support of the Republicans… they’re just not willing to go as far as I think we need to go.

The jobs report landed shortly after Senate Democrats voted to force the COVID relief plan through the chamber without Republican backing, a step toward final approval next month. Vice President Kamala Harris cast the decisive vote in the Senate, her first.

Biden’s speech solidified a marked change in tone and strategy for a president who entered the White House promising bipartisanship and met 10 Republican senators on Monday pushing a lean $ 618 billion alternative. Biden concluded in his speech on Friday that aid at this level would only prolong the economic pain.

Still, the president acknowledged on Friday that one of his most ambitious proposals, raising the minimum wage, would likely be left out of the final bill.

“I put it on, but I don’t think it will survive,” Biden said in an interview with “CBS Evening News” presenter Norah O’Donnell, adding that he would push to lift him in a draft. of autonomous law. “No one should be working 40 hours a week and living below a pittance. And if you make less than $ 15 an hour, you are living below the pittance wage. “

Senate Democrats applauded after Harris announced the House vote 51-50 on the budget measure around 5:30 a.m. Invoice.

Following Senate approval, the House passed measure 219-209 on Friday afternoon, also without a Republican vote. The coronavirus aid program can now pass through congressional committees with the aim of finalizing additional relief by mid-March, when the additional unemployment aid and other pandemic aid expires. It’s an aggressive schedule that will test the ability of the new administration and Congress to deliver on its promises.

“We have focused like a laser to make it happen,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi after the House Democrats met with Biden on Friday. “We hope we can put vaccines in people’s arms, money in people’s pockets, children safe in schools and workers in their jobs. This is what we are doing now.

The stimulus incentive comes amid further signs of a weakening US economy. Employers added just 49,000 jobs in January, after cutting 227,000 jobs in December, the Labor Department said on Friday. Restaurants, retailers, manufacturers and even the healthcare industry laid off workers last month, meaning private employers accounted for a meager gain of 6,000 jobs last month.

“At this rate, it will be 10 years before you reach full employment,” Biden said during his Oval Office meeting with House Democrats. “This is not hyperbole. It is a fact.”

The unemployment rate fell to 6.3% from 6.7%, but there was a drop in the number of people working or looking for work, a sign that people are dropping out of the labor market. The US economy has 9.9 million fewer jobs than its pre-pandemic level.

Biden, who has met with lawmakers in recent days to discuss the package, greeted the leaders of the House committees that will assemble the bill as part of the budget process known as “reconciliation.” Money for vaccine distributions, direct payments to households, the reopening of schools and business support are at stake.

The size of the package has been a concern for several Republican lawmakers and some economists. Larry Summers, a former Treasury secretary under the Clinton administration, said in a column for the Washington Post that the $ 1.9 trillion package was three times larger than the projected economic deficit. A separate analysis of the Penn Wharton budget model found that the plan would do little to boost growth relative to its size.

The Senate also passed Amendment 99-1 that would prevent the $ 1,400 in direct checks from Biden’s proposal from going to “high income taxpayers.” But the measure, led by Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Joe Manchin, DW.Va., is ultimately symbolic and non-binding and does not specify at what level a person qualifies as top income.

Biden told CBS he was “ready to negotiate” on the upper limit to determine where the payments would be phased out. “The middle class people need help,” he said. “But you don’t have to help someone who’s making $ 300,000 or $ 250,000.”

And while Biden appeared willing to break with Republicans in his speech, White House press secretary Jen Psaki later told reporters that the Senate-approved budget process still allows for bipartisanship.

“The process leaves time for negotiations through committee work,” Psaki said. “We certainly hope there will be opportunities for Republicans’ amendments, other amendments at all levels to be part of this process moving forward.”

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