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Biden Urges Congress to Move Quickly on Covid Relief, Won’t Rule Out Acting Without GOP

Michael Rainey
·3 min read

Saying the economy is in dire need of more support, President Biden on Friday urged lawmakers to move quickly to approve his $1.9 trillion Covid relief bill.

“We have to act now,” Biden told reporters as he met with newly confirmed Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen in the Oval Office. “There is an overwhelming consensus among economists, left, right and center, that this is a unique moment in this crisis. The cost of inaction is high and it is growing every day.”

Biden said more spending more now will help the economy return to full employment at a faster clip. “We need to make these investments so the economy can grow the remainder of this year and next year,” he said. “Investments now will help the economy grow. It will not, in fact, put a drag on this economy ... it will do the exact opposite.”

Yellen, citing a “huge amount of pain in the economy right now,” said the case for more support was clear. “Economists agree, that if there is not more help, many more people will lose their small businesses, roofs over their heads and the ability to feed their families. And we need to help those people before the virus is brought under control," she said.

“I want to emphasize that the president is absolutely right,” Yellen added. “The price of doing nothing is much higher than the price of doing something, and doing something big. We need to act now, and the benefits of acting now and acting big will far outweigh the costs in the long run.”

A generational threat: Failure to pass aid quickly could make it harder to reopen schools, Biden said, jeopardizing young people’s future earning potential. “You could see an entire cohort of kids with lower lifetime earnings because they’re deprived of another semester of school,” Biden said. “The choice couldn’t be clearer. We have learned from past crises: The risk is not doing too much, the risk is not doing enough.”

Psaki invites Republicans to climb aboard: Addressing GOP complaints that Democrats were moving too quickly and threatening to proceed without bipartisan backing, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki reiterated that Biden is seeking support from both sides of the aisle, even if the bill is advanced through reconciliation, which would allow Democrats to pass it with just 51 votes. “This bill should be bipartisan,” Psaki said at a press briefing. “A fair question you might ask our GOP or Republican colleagues is why they oppose proposals that have the support of 74% of the American public. If this bill moves forward through the reconciliation process, it doesn’t mean they can’t vote for it.”

Biden to push relief bill: In his first days in office, Biden has signed a remarkable number of executive actions — 42 at last count — touching on a wide variety of issues, but he plans to shift his attention next week to getting legislation through Congress, NBC News reported Friday. His main focus will be the Covid relief package, and he has already started calling key Republicans to lobby for the bill, including Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Rob Portman of Ohio. Biden may invite lawmakers to the White House to press his case. “I support passing Covid relief with support from Republicans if we can get it,” Biden said Friday. “But the Covid relief has to pass, there's no ifs, ands or buts.”

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