Biden administration bats for $1.9 trillion pandemic relief plan
WASHINGTON (US) – In a Sunday call with Republican and Democratic lawmakers, officials in the administration of President Joe Biden tried to head off concerns that his $1.9 trillion pandemic relief proposal was too costly.
From both parties, lawmakers agreed that rolling out the coronavirus vaccine to Americans should be a priority. However, some Republicans raised an objection to such a hefty package a month after Congress passed a $900 billion relief measure.
“It seems premature to be considering a package of this size and scope,” said Republican Senator Susan Collins, who was on the call with Brian Deese, director of the White House’s National Economic Council.
She said she was of the opinion that additional funding was required for vaccine distribution, but in a more limited bill and planned to discuss such a measure with other lawmakers.
Senate’s No. 2 Democrat Dick Durbin said the call demonstrated that COVID relief was top priority for President Biden.
“We can’t wait,” White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told media persons. “Just because Washington has been gridlocked before doesn’t mean it needs to continue to be gridlocked.”
Jared Bernstein, a member of Biden’s Council of Economic Advisers, told CNN that the proposed $900 billion in relief would be sufficient only for a month or two.
While Congress has already sanctioned $4 trillion, the White House says the additional $1.9 trillion is needed to cover the costs of responding to the virus and provide jobless benefits and payments to families.