Jan 27, 2021 - Politics & Policy

White House plots "full-court press" for $1.9 trillion relief plan

National Economic Council Director Brian Deese speaks during a White House news briefing

National Economic Council director Brian Deese speaks during a White House news briefing. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The Biden White House is deploying top officials to get a wide ideological spectrum of lawmakers, governors and mayors on board with the president’s $1.9 trillion COVID relief proposal, according to people familiar with the matter.

Why it matters: The broad, choreographed effort shows just how crucially Biden views the stimulus to the nation's recovery and his own political success.

Driving the news: Brian Deese, director of the National Economic Council, and Jeff Zients, Biden’s COVID czar, have a meeting scheduled with the centrist New Democrat Coalition later Wednesday.

  • Over the weekend, Deese’s meeting with 16 senators drew focus, but in reality, there are dozens of calls every day as the White House works to build the first coalition of Biden’s presidency.

How it works: Overall outreach to congressional members and staff is coordinated by Biden counselor Steve Ricchetti and legislative affairs director Louisa Terrell.

  • President Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain and senior adviser Anita Dunn have made individual calls to lawmakers this week.
  • Zients spoke Tuesday with governors from both parties and other officials briefing tribal leaders and mayors.
  • Cedric Richmond, who leads the White House's Office of Public Engagement, reached out Tuesday to civil rights groups including the NAACP, Urban League, Coalition of Black Civic Participation and Black Women’s Roundtable.

What they're saying: "President Biden and the White House are mounting a full-court press to engage leaders and stakeholders in Washington," said Mike Gwin, a deputy White House press secretary.

The big picture: Biden has said he prefers a bipartisan approach to getting his plan through Congress. But he hasn’t ruled out relying on Democratic votes alone to pass his proposal through the budget reconciliation process, which requires a bare majority in the Senate.

  • Some progressives like Senate Budget Committee Chair Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) argue Biden should move to the reconciliation track now and not waste time looking for 60 votes.
  • Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said yesterday that “we're keeping all our options open, on the table, including budget reconciliation."
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