Biden Wants Bipartisan COVID-19 Package, but Democrats Prepared to Move Forward No Matter What

Democrats are not ruling out a procedural move that would allow them to bypass their Republican colleagues to expedite the passage of another massive coronavirus relief package, but the White House says President Joe Biden still prefers a bipartisan measure.

"[Biden] continues to believe that this can be, should be and will be a bipartisan bill that gets support from Democrats and Republicans," White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Thursday. "He's having conversations with and listening to leaders and members of both parties to assure that we get to exactly that."

The White House's continued push for bipartisanship came just hours after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, echoing comments from U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer earlier this week, signaled that Democrats are prepared to move ahead on a sped-up process called budget reconciliation that would cut the number of votes needed for passage.

"We would hope we'd have bipartisan cooperation to meet the needs of the American people," Pelosi told reporters. "We're not taking any tools off the table, should they not."

Biden has made his $1.9 trillion coronavirus stimulus package the top priority as his term begins, but he's faced resistance from some Republican lawmakers who have recoiled at the hefty price tag.

Congress already has approved nearly $4 trillion in COVID-19 relief measures—the most recent of which came just last month.

Biden and members of his administration have been reaching out to Republican and Democratic lawmakers, as well as outside groups, to try to build support around the proposal, which includes an additional $1,400 stimulus check for most Americans, as well as funding for vaccine efforts and school safety efforts.

"These challenges that the American public are facing are urgent," Psaki said. "People don't know how to plan to have food on their table now; they're worried about whether your kids can go back to school a couple months now; they're worried about getting the vaccine now—those are issues that Republican elected officials are hearing and Democratic elected officials are hearing from their constituents.

"We're confident that people are gonna listen to them and come together to support a bipartisan package," Psaki added.

Psaki shot down reports this week that Biden is open to a split package that would allow quicker passage for part of Biden's proposal, leaving lawmakers to hash out disagreements over the more contentious pieces.

"We're not going to do this in a piecemeal way or break apart a big package that's meant to address the crisis we're facing," she said.

If Democrats, who control the Senate with a razor-thin margin, pursue the reconciliation road, they will be able to avoid a filibuster fight and pass the proposal with a simple majority. Without it, they would need support from GOP members to get the 60 votes needed.

"We want to work with our Republican colleagues to advance this legislation in a bipartisan way," Schumer told reporters Tuesday. "But the work must move forward—preferably with our Republican colleagues but without them if we must."

U.S. Capitol
The United States Capitol in Washington, D.C. President Joe Biden has made his $1.9 trillion coronavirus stimulus package a top priority, but he's faced resistance from some GOP lawmakers who have recoiled at the hefty price tag. Robert Alexander/Getty