President Biden Friday defended the size of his $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package even as he signaled to critics he’d be willing to make some trims to win their support.
The House is prepared to vote next week on Biden’s massive package as GOP leadership is actively urging their members to reject the legislation they’ve dubbed a bloated progressive wish list.
“I’m grateful that the Senate and the House are moving quickly,” Biden said Friday in Michigan after touring a Pfizer vaccine manufacturing plant. “I’m prepared to hear their ideas on how to make the package better and make it cheaper. I’m open to that.”
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Biden, however, suggested it’s Republicans that should get on board with his plan because the American people want them to “act big and quickly.”
“My hope is that Republicans in Congress listen to their constituents,” Biden said. “According to the polls, there is overwhelming bipartisan support.”
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Biden said underneath the $1.9 trillion price tag is genuine relief for Americans who need help. He ticked off specifics of the legislation, including helping the unemployed, small businesses, school reopening, vaccination availability and Americans who are hungry and at risk of losing the homes.
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“We need Congress to pass my American rescue plan that deals with the immediate crisis, the urgency,” Biden said. “Now critics say my plan is too big. That it costs $1.9 trillion. That’s too much. Let me ask them: What would they have me cut?”
Democrats control narrow majorities in both the House and Senate. They are preparing to pass the coronavirus legislation under a process called budget reconciliation that would not require any GOP votes if their caucus stays united.
Biden has already backed off one of the major components of the bill — raising the minimum wage to $15 — over concerns it may not comply with rules in the Senate to pass under reconciliation. Plus, two moderate Democrats — Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Joe Manchin of West Virginia — have expressed opposition to the $15 wage in the package, making passage even harder in a 50-50 split Senate.
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“President Biden has been consistent in private and public about his commitment to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, which is why he included it in his first major piece of legislation,” said White House Director of Rapid Response Michael Gwin. “That commitment will remain unshaken whether or not this can be done through reconciliation.”
During his visit to the Pfizer plant Friday, Biden sought to provide assurances that America was on the right path to defeating the virus, despite delays this week in shipping 6 million doses of vaccine due to the winter weather.
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“I believe we’ll be approaching normalcy by the end of this year,” Biden said. “God willing, this Christmas will be different than last, but I can’t make that commitment to you.”
Fox News’ Griff Jenkins contributed to this report.