Democrats vow to maneuver Biden’s coronavirus reduction plan ahead subsequent week

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© Reuters. People wait in line for donations outside a food distribution facility in the Harlem neighborhood of Manhattan in New York City

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By Richard Cowan and Makini Brice

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives will implement President Joe Biden’s plan next week to provide a new infusion of COVID-19 relief to Americans and companies affected by the pandemic, said top Democrats on Thursday.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said his tightly-knit chamber would begin work on a “robust” coronavirus package as early as next week, while House spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi predicted Congress would have one before the end of next week important preliminary step to complete.

The move reflects Democrats’ desire to use their newfound Senate control to help Biden quickly achieve his top political priority before the Senate turns to impeachment proceedings against former President Donald Trump later next month.

Biden has stepped up the response to the COVID-19 pandemic that killed nearly 430,000 people in the U.S. and left millions of people unemployed. This is a focus of his early tenure. But Republicans and some Democrats have opposed the $ 1.9 trillion cost of his proposal, on top of the $ 4 trillion in aid approved by Congress last year.

Legislators said bipartisan talks on the plan would continue.

“The Senate will start examining a very strong COVID relief law as early as next week,” said Schumer on the floor of the chamber.

“We need to recover and rescue quickly. Everywhere you look there are alarm bells ringing,” he added, saying the Democrats would continue even if the Republicans weren’t on board.

Schumer did not give any details about the bill he wants to push forward.

Pelosi told a press conference that parliament would vote on a budget resolution necessary for a parliamentary process called reconciliation that would allow Democrats to pass much of Biden’s proposal by a simple majority in the Senate, even without Republican support. Vice President Kamala Harris conducts the 50:50 Senate vote.

“By the end of (next) week we will be finished with the budget resolution, which is about reconciliation if necessary,” said Pelosi.

Democrats say they hope to find enough Republican support to hit the Senate’s 60-vote threshold for the transition. But they are preparing for reconciliation in the event that non-partisanship falls short.

Senate Republicans said the reconciliation would believe the unified message Biden put forward during his inaugural address last week.

“This will send a signal to America and Republicans throughout Congress that the message of presidential unity was rhetoric as opposed to substance,” said Senator Todd Young, a Republican from Indiana.

White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki dismissed this argument, saying Republicans had the option to vote for or against a reconciliation law.

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Senate concerns about the size of Biden’s proposal sparked speculation that the White House might pursue a two-pronged strategy, starting with a bill small enough to win Republican support, followed by a larger reconciliation bill.

But senior White House officials rejected the idea on Thursday.

“The needs of the American people are not partisan; we can’t do this bit by bit,” White House economic adviser Brian Deese, who was involved in talks with a bipartisan group of Senate and House legislators, said on Twitter.

Deese later spoke about the COVID-19 relief efforts during a Senate Democratic lunch.

“We have to do everything together. It all fits together,” said Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal to reporters after lunch. “That’s the general feeling in the caucus.”

Biden and his allies in Congress are also under pressure from the progressive wing of the Democratic Party.

Representative Pramila Jayapal, chairwoman of the left-wing Congressional Progressive (NYSE 🙂 Caucus, told Politico in an online interview that $ 1.9 trillion should be the foundation for COVID-19 relief spending, not a cap.

Her caucus, who represents more than 90 of the House’s 221 Democrats, wants the package to include an increase in the minimum wage to $ 15 an hour, a path to citizenship for key workers who are immigrants, and automatic enrollment on public health insurance plans for the uninsured.

“We should think this in terms of people’s needs, not in terms of dollar amounts,” Jayapal said.

She and other Democratic lawmakers, including Rep. Ilhan Omar, have called for recurring payments to U.S. households in lieu of the one-time check for $ 1,400 that the Biden administration included in its proposal.

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