The friendship between Biden and Dole, the former Senate Republican leader who recently revealed that he has been diagnosed with stage four lung cancer
, was forged over the many years that the two men served together in the Senate. Biden often speaks with nostalgia about his working relationships with GOP leaders during that less polarizing time when negotiation was the rule rather than the exception.
But on the pandemic, at least, he is leaning in with the limited political capital he has in a narrowly divided Congress, while taking his case for the package directly to the American people as he tries to overcome Republican opposition
— something he’ll continue to do this week, a White House official said Sunday. With the House set to vote this week, the President and senior members of his team will also continue their engagement with members of Congress on the package as well as state and local leaders and other stakeholders, the official said.
In this first glimpse of Biden’s presidential salesmanship, he has not been shy about calling out Republicans who are wary of supporting his American Rescue Plan, despite its popularity — urging them to offer their ideas for potential compromise. On Friday, at a Pfizer plant
in Michigan manufacturing vaccines, he made an impassioned case for the bill while pushing back on Republican critics who have said it is too big and too expensive.
“Let me ask them: What would they have me cut? What would they have me leave out?” Biden asked. “Should we not invest $20 billion to vaccinate the nation? Should we not invest $290 (billion) to extend unemployment insurance for the 11 million Americans who are unemployed so they can get by while they get back to work? Should we not invest $50 billion to help small businesses stay open, when tens of thousands have had to close permanently? … Should we not invest $130 (billion) to help schools across the nation open safely?”
In its current form, the House bill
released Friday, which closely mirrors Biden’s proposal, would provide direct payments of up to $1,400 per person for Americans making up to $75,000 annually, while extending key pandemic unemployment programs through August and the 15% increase in food stamp benefits through September. The legislation also includes assistance for struggling homeowners and those at risk of homelessness, as well as substantial tax credits for families and low-income workers.
With many parents focused on how to get their children back to in-person classes, Biden and his aides have highlighted the nearly $130 billion that the plan would provide to K-12 schools to help them pay for safety modifications that the administration hopes will allow more schools to reopen.
One of the most controversial provisions is the phased increase of the $7.25 an hour federal minimum wage to $15 per hour
by 2025. Moderate Democratic Sens. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Joe Manchin of West Virginia have already signaled their opposition to that provision — and with the Senate divided 50-50, Biden cannot afford to lose a single member in his caucus. The Senate parliamentarian also must review whether the minimum wage hike would have a direct impact on the federal budget — allowing it to be considered as part of the process known as reconciliation
that could enable Democrats to pass the legislation on a party-line vote.
Biden has acknowledged that he believes the minimum wage increase is unlikely to survive as part of the package. But Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent who caucuses with Democrats and is also chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, has forcefully advocated
for the provision, noting that the increase would be gradual, and that the federal government would provide tax credits to small businesses to help cushion the impact.
Sanders said in an interview with CNN
Saturday that he was confident that the Senate parliamentarian would ultimately side with the argument that he and…
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