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Biden Aide to Make Appeal on Stimulus to Bipartisan Group

EconomyJan 21, 2021 17:36
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(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden’s top economic adviser, Brian Deese, plans to meet with a bipartisan group of lawmakers in coming days in an appeal for the administration’s $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief plan, according to aides familiar with the matter.

Deese, head of the White House National Economic Council, expects to speak with the group in the next week or so, the people said, asking not to be named as the plans aren’t public. Timing of the meeting hasn’t yet been finalized.

Biden’s plan has already run into headwinds. GOP lawmakers on Tuesday dismissed the argument by Janet Yellen, who’s awaiting Senate confirmation as Treasury secretary, that historically low interest rates mean major deficit spending isn’t a problem right now.

Even moderate GOP senators expressed skepticism about the need for another giant package so soon after the $900 billion spending bill enacted last month. Mitt Romney of Utah and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who were key members of a bipartisan group that helped get that last package passed, on Wednesday declined to embrace the new administration’s push.

Moderate Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia, another member of that group, said Wednesday that a meeting with Biden officials could come as soon as the weekend. He has argued for a more targeted approach in the next aid package, such as for the $1,400 direct payments that Biden has proposed.

But Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon, a progressive Democrat, warned that the Biden administration needs to go beyond consulting with the party’s centrists.

“It is so important that this administration not simply adopt ‘We’re going to talk to the middle of the spectrum,’ because I can tell you that the energy that drives the Democratic Party is coming from the progressive side, and progressives need to be at the table,” he told CNN.

Deese worked at the NEC and the White House budget office during the Obama administration.

Biden himself is also likely to take a role in pushing his relief plan -- designed as just the first part of a two-pronged economic initiative. He said last week he would unveil his second package, aimed at longer-term areas like infrastructure and climate change, next month.

There will be more meetings between the new administration and lawmakers of both parties, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday. She added that Biden’s “clear preference is to move forward with a bipartisan bill,” but he is willing to use any tools to get the package through.

With the Senate now a 50-50 partisan split, Biden will need at least 10 Republicans to speed his plan through that chamber. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer could use the chamber’s so-called reconciliation process, which only requires 51 votes -- but some parts of the stimulus bill are likely to prove difficult if not impossible to qualify for those rules.

“We hope, and frankly we expect, Republicans in Congress -- and Democrats too -- will support assistance that will bring relief to the people they represent,” Psaki said Wednesday. “This is a conversation; he’s already had a number of conversations with Democrats and Republicans, those will continue,” she said, referring to Biden.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

Biden Aide to Make Appeal on Stimulus to Bipartisan Group
 

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