Democrats are moving forward with procedural votes Tuesday in the Senate to launch a process that would fast-track President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID rescue plan over GOP opposition by a March deadline.
Watch Schumer’s remarks in the player above.
“We are not going to dilute, dither or delay,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Tuesday at a Capitol Hill press conference, “The needs of the American people are just too great.”
Biden told Senate Democrats on a private call Tuesday that a Republican alternative to his rescue plan is insufficient as he urged lawmakers to boldly and swiftly confront the coronavirus pandemic and economic crisis.
Biden and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen joined senators for the virtual meeting, both declaring the Republicans’ $618 billion offer was too small. The president urged the senators not to forget middle class families – nurses and pipefitters, for example – who are earning incomes but still struggling.
The swift action from Democrats on Capitol Hill underscores the urgency of the pandemic response and economic aid, Biden’s top legislative priority, even as talks are progressing privately between Republicans and the White House, as well as with centrist Democrats, on potential adjustments to the package to win over broader bipartisan support.
Biden framed his views on the virtual meeting by talking about the need not to forget working middle class families, even those making $150,000 for a family of four, who are straining during the crisis, according to a person granted anonymity to discuss the private call.
The outcome will test the new president who made a national plea for unity at his inaugural but is confronting a rising COVID death toll and stubbornly high jobless numbers, with grave political risks for all sides for failure. Vaccine distributions, direct payments to households and business aid are all on the line.
The two sides are far apart, with the Republican group of 10 senators focused primarily on the health care crisis and smaller $1,000 direct aid to Americans than the $1,400 payments Biden proposed, and the president leading Democrats toward a more sweeping rescue plan to shore up households, local governments and a partly shuttered economy.
The goal is to have COVID-19 relief approved by March, when extra unemployment assistance and other pandemic aid expires.
Biden told a group of 10 Republican senators during a lengthy two-hour meeting late Monday that he’s unwilling to settle on an insufficient coronavirus aid package after they pitched their slimmed down $618 billion proposal.
While no compromise was reached during the lengthy session, Biden’s first with lawmakers at the White House, talks are privately underway on various alternatives. The president made it clear that he won’t delay aid in hopes of winning GOP support.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said the GOP senators outlined a framework for a potential bipartisan approach, but he criticized the Democrats for pressing ahead on their own. He said he spoke to Biden ahead of his meeting with the 10 GOP senators.
White House officials have previously cited the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as evidence of broad support for their plan, but the nation’s most prominent business group issued a letter Tuesday that urged a bipartisan compromise.
Schumer also at the press briefing addressed questions on the Senate impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump.
House Democrats say the Senate should convict former President Donald Trump and bar him from office because he endangered the lives of all members of Congress when he aimed a mob of supporters “like a loaded cannon” at the U.S. Capitol last month.
“I think the president should be tried. I hope we will vote to be convicted of anything past. That is something we can discuss. But he deserves conviction, nothing less,” Schumer said.
Trump’s lawyers deny that he incited rioters and call the upcoming Senate trial unconstitutional. Both sides filed their legal briefs Tuesday in advance of next week’s trial.