WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden spoke with House Democrats in a conference call Wednesday, urging members of his party to ‘stick together’ and making it clear he is not willing to drop the $1.9 trillion price tag on his Covid relief bill.
In audio obtained by CNN, Mr. Biden can be heard warning House Democrats about the possible danger of engaging in battles within their own party, a risky move with narrow majorities in both the House and the Senate.
“We hold a small majority in the House, and the barest majorities in the Senate, and we’re gonna succeed or fail together,” Biden said. “There have been three Democratic presidents in 28 years. Each one faced a tough midterm loss that cost a lot. It happened in ’94 and it happened in 2010. We don’t want to let that happen here. So, let’s stick together.”
The President made clear that he was not going to lower the $1,400 stimulus checks that are a key component of the package, saying the American people are struggling and need relief now, not later.
“I think we can better target the number, I’m OK with that,” Biden said. “But I’m not gonna start my administration by breaking a promise to the American people.”
Mr. Biden suggested he is open to lowering the stimulus checks for Americans making over $300,000 a year, saying he wants the main bulk of the money to go to poor and middle-class families.
The meeting with House Democrats comes just 48 hours after the President met with GOP Senators, who offered a $600 billion relief plan counterproposal but Mr. Biden called it a non-starter, saying “it’s not in the cards” to lower the relief package.
“A lot of folks are going hungry, out of work, and they’re reaching a breaking point,” he said. “And there’s an overwhelming increase in the number of people who are committing suicide, women being abused in their homes, drug addiction and drug problems are up.”
Mr. Biden’s move could help win over Democrats on the fence like Sen. Joe Manchin, who has publicly said he supports more targeted relief.
Speaking on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Wednesday morning, Manchin said he doesn’t want Democrats to go it alone and ignore Republicans.
“I want it to be bipartisan,” he said.
The White House’s current plan is to get a bill passed by March 14, which is the date unemployment benefits will expire for millions of Americans who are depending on that check for rent, bills, and groceries.