Feb 2, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Biden tells Senate Democrats that GOP coronavirus plan is "too small"

U.S. President Joe Biden meets with Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen in the Oval Office

President Biden in the Oval Office. Photo: Anna Moneymaker-Pool/Getty Images

President Biden told Senate Democrats at a virtual lunch on Tuesday that Republicans' current $618 billion coronavirus relief proposal is "too small," but he wants to continue working toward a compromise and is willing to bend on the final price, a source on the call tells Axios.

Why it matters: Biden made clear he is not giving up on finding a bipartisan path to passing stimulus legislation, despite many Democrats urging him to use the budget reconciliation process to bypass the GOP. He also said that the White House has red lines that they're unwilling to budge on, including the salary minimums for receiving stimulus checks.

What we're hearing: The president told the Senate Democratic caucus that there is no harm in spending too much, but there is harm in spending too little, and applauded the party for continuing to think big.

  • He said the Senate Republican offer of doling out $1,400 checks to people making $50,000 a year or less was a nonstarter, adding that his administration won't agree to anything lower than the full payment to individuals making $75,000 or less per year.
  • He then referred to a hypothetical "family of four" whose primary earners were a nurse and pipe-fitter, and how they may only make $150,000 combined, but are still worried about their jobs. "We can't leave them out," Biden said.
  • He didn't take any questions before hanging up on the call.
  • Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen emphasized Biden's insistence on ensuring they didn't underestimate the money needed to keep the economy in check, and then took several questions, which resulted in the meeting descending into chaos, the source on the call said.

The president called into the Zoom rather than joining the video call. He told senators that the White House doesn’t have Zoom in the Oval Office, and he would have had to go to the Roosevelt Room to video in.

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