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Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle confronted the Biden administration on it’s $1.9 trillion economic recovery package, lobbying the newly-installed White House to take a more targeted approach.
In a call Sunday, White House Economic Adviser Brian Deese was grilled by centrist Democrats and Republicans on the nearly $2 trillion price tag, which includes $1,400 checks for most Americans, an extension of the eviction and foreclosure moratorium until September and a national vaccination program.
“This isn’t Monopoly money,” Sen. Angus King (I-Me.), one of the lawmakers on the call, told reporters on Sunday.
“Part of what we’re asking for is more data. Where did you get the number?” he continued, asking about the package’s price tag.
The call with Deese was organized by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV). Manchin is one of 16 moderate senators who serve as key swing votes.
Over a dozen senators took part in the 75-minute call, as did Reps. Tom Reed (R-NY) and Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), who co-chair the House Problem Solvers Caucus, a source familiar told The Post.
Representing the Biden administration alongside Deese were Jeff Zients, Biden’s coronavirus coordinator, and Louisa Terrell, head of White House legislative affairs.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Me.) joined King in his concern about the new White House’s proposal, telling reporters “It seems premature to be considering a package of this size and scope.”
Both she and King voiced their continued support for making vaccine distribution a core focus of the next relief package, something backed by other lawmakers on the call as well. What is not a priority in this legislation, many argued, is the provision creating a $15 federal minimum wage.
In an interview with NPR, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Mark Warner (D-Va.) said more transparency was needed on how the last round of stimulus funding was used.
“I think that case can be better made when we get more transparency and better numbers about how the last $900 billion — much of which has started to go out — but I think the administration needs to be very transparent about how those dollars have been delivered,” the Virginia senator, who was also on the call, told the outlet.
The last round of Covid relief legislation was signed by former President Donald Trump in December. The $908 billion bill was tied to a $1.4 trillion government funding bill.
The White House, meanwhile, stood firm on keeping the package as is on the Sunday afternoon call, King said when speaking to reporters.
The White House did not, however, broach any subject of pushing through the package without GOP support.
A spokesperson for the Biden administration did not immediately respond to The Post’s request for comment on the call.
The White House team is required to pass this legislation with some Republican support.
The Senate is split 50-50 between Republicans and Democrats, though Vice President Kamala Harris has a tie-breaking vote she’ll be able to cast for the left.
Still, 51 votes is not enough under current Senate rules to break through the legislative filibuster, which requires 60 members to end debate on most topics and move forward to a vote.
In working with the Senate rule, Biden appears to be banking on being able to convince 10 Republicans to back the package. It is currently unclear how many left the Sunday call more supportive of the measure.
With Post wires
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