Updated Feb 5, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Biden after jobs report: "We can't do too much here — we can do too little"

President Biden seized on January's anemic jobs report Friday to argue for his $1.9 trillion relief package, while also bracing the public for the long road to a full economic recovery and robust job growth.

The latest: Biden insisted in a speech from the White House that he would not be cutting the size of the $1,400 per person stimulus checks included in his proposal.

  • "That's what the American people were promised," the president said, though he added that the amounts could be adjusted according to income level to ensure they are targeted at "people who need it."
  • Biden also gave a clear indication that he would prioritize size and speed over bipartisanship, saying: "If I have to choose between getting help right now to Americans who are hurting so badly and getting bogged down in a lengthy negotiation ... that's an easy choice."

Driving the news: January's unemployment rate dropped to 6.3% in Trump's last month in office, but the economy gained just 49,000 jobs.

  • “Only 6,000 private sector jobs been created," Biden said. "At that rate it’s going to take 10 years before we get to full unemployment."
  • “That’s not hyperbole, that’s a fact," he added.

The big picture: Biden met with House Democrats Friday to strategize on how to pass his relief plan, which many Republicans — and former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers — have criticized for being too big.

  • Biden appeared to directly address those arguments, saying: "President Obama put me in charge of the Recovery Act, and it was hard as hell to get the votes for it to begin with. And then it was hard as hell to get even the number we got. But one thing we learned is, you know, we can't do too much here. We can do too little."
  • "It's not just the macroeconomic impact on the economy and our ability to compete internationally," he added. "It's people's lives. Real live people are hurting, and we can fix it."

What to watch: After 15 hours of debate, the Senate voted 51-50 early Friday morning to approve the budget resolution that will be used as a vehicle for Biden's $1.9 trillion relief proposal — with Vice President Kamala Harris casting her first-ever tie-breaking vote.

  • Once the final resolution is passed by the House, lawmakers will get to work on writing the text of the package.
  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Friday that she hopes to send the rescue package to the Senate within two weeks' time.

Go deeper: The Trump-COVID jobs legacy

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