WASHINGTON — White House press secretary Jen Psaki repeatedly dismissed concerns that President Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus rescue plan is a Democratic wish-list at a briefing Monday where she also suggested the bill could be rammed through Congress without Republican support.
Speaking at her daily briefing, Psaki was pressed by reporters on the fact that no GOP lawmakers had come out in favor of the huge bailout that the Biden administration insists is bipartisan.
“The President has been clear since long before he came into office that he’s open to engaging with both Democrats and Republicans in Congress about their ideas and this is an example of doing exactly that,” Psaki said ahead of a White House meeting between Biden and GOP lawmakers who have pitched a scaled down stimulus bill.
Biden has sold himself as a master negotiator and centrist after spending four decades in the US senate and has pledged to bring “unity” back to Washington. But the president suggested he would only court Republican concerns about the ballooning national debt for so long when he told reporters on Friday: “[T]he COVID relief has to pass – no ifs, ands or buts.”
On Monday, Psaki indicated that the White House would support Democrats if they decided to use a tactic known as “budget reconciliation,” which which allows for the passing of some spending bills by a majority of 51 votes.
“There is historic evidence that it is possible to take a number of paths, including through reconciliation if that’s the path that is pursued,” Psaki said.
Republicans meeting with Biden have suggested a $618 billion package but Psaki said Biden wanted to be “closer to what he proposed and then smaller,” suggesting he was not willing to negotiate.
When pushed on the fact that Biden was “abandoning his hope for bipartisanship,” his spokeswoman said that Republicans could instead just get behind the package.
“Even if through the parliamentary process, that the Congress will decide, it moves toward reconciliation, Republicans can still vote for that and there’s certainly precedent of that in the past,” she suggested.
Psaki deflected when the same reporter noted that such a move was “not true compromise.”
“Well, I think that the one in seven American families who can’t put food on the table, and the teachers who are waiting to ensure their schools have the ventilation, the PPP, the testing they need, they will tell you that they expect their members to meet this moment,” she said.
At least one Democratic lawmaker has voiced his opposition to the COVID bill: Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia whose vote will be crucial if Biden wants his rescue package to pass the Senate.
On Monday, Manchin slammed Vice President Kamala Harris for appearing on local TV stations in West Virginia and Arizona in what was effectively a targeted pressure campaign on senators from those states to get behind Biden’s bill.
“I saw [the interview], I couldn’t believe it. No one called me. We’re going to try to find a bipartisan pathway forward, I think we need to,” the self-proclaimed conservative Democrat said.
“We need to work together. That’s not a way of working together,” he continued.