President Biden is taking his pitch for a $1.9 trillion coronavirus aid package on the road, traveling to Milwaukee Tuesday for a CNN town hall at 9 p.m. ET that is expected to focus on the pandemic, the economy and the relief bill that Democrats are pushing to pass quickly. The event is Biden’s first official trip out of Washington, D.C. since taking office. Biden is set to visit Michigan, another Midwestern battleground state, on Thursday to see a Pfizer manufacturing site and talk to workers making the Covid-19 vaccine.
Where the relief package stands: As the Senate was dealing with the second impeachment trial of former President Trump last week, nine House committees passed their sections of the massive package, with Democrats voting down dozens of GOP amendments “targeting everything from abortion to the minimum wage to the Keystone XL pipeline,” The Washington Post reports.
Congressional Republicans largely oppose Biden’s proposal, arguing that it costs too much and should be more targeted. They also object to Biden’s proposed $15 minimum wage and the $350 billion in aid to state and local governments. In an interview published Monday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told The Wall Street Journal that the Biden administration’s policies will help unify a fractured GOP. “I don’t think many Republicans are going to be for very many of the things that are coming out of this administration,” he said.
Democrats are set to move ahead using the budget reconciliation process that allow the package to pass the Senate with a simple majority, meaning the GOP support won’t be necessary. But the White House and congressional Democrats are still ramping up pressure on Republicans, pointing to polls that show the $1.9 trillion package is widely popular with the public in suggesting that the GOP’s position is politically risky. “If they make a decision, Senator McConnell, the Republicans in Congress, to vote against the will of their constituents, I would suggest you ask them why that’s smart politically,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Tuesday.
House Democrats are targeting a floor vote next week to send the legislation to the Senate. Politico reports that Democrats are holding a series of issue-specific caucus calls Tuesday and Wednesday to get information on the legislation out to their members.
$15 minimum wage remains in question: Biden has suggested that increasing the minimum wage to $15 may not make it into the final legislation. “I put it in, but I don’t think it’s going to survive,” he told CBS News this month, suggesting that standalone legislation could follow.
The wage hike faces questions about whether it qualifies for inclusion in the relief package under the special rules for budget reconciliation, but political considerations also loom large. Conservative Senate Democrats Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, whose votes are crucial for passage, oppose the $15 wage, while House progressives are pushing strongly for the provision to be included. “If the Senate strips out the minimum wage increase and sends the legislation back to the House without it, liberals in the House would face a decision about whether to support the package anyway,” the Post notes.
The Hill’s Alex Gangitano details the key players to watch in this fight here.