Meeting with Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen in the Oval Office, the President warned of the “cost of inaction,” pointing to alarming new job losses, the hunger that some 30 million Americans are facing every day, as well as the possibility that “an entire cohort of kids” could face “lower lifetime earnings because they’re deprived of another semester of school.”
“We have to act now; there’s no time for delay,” Biden said.
He punctuated that point less than two hours later on his way to visit Walter Reed National Military Medical Center when a reporter asked him whether he was willing to achieve his goals by using reconciliation — an arcane procedural tactic that would allow Democrats to pass the relief bill on a party-line vote.
“I support passing Covid relief with support from Republicans if we can get it,” Biden replied. “But the Covid relief has to pass. There’s no ifs, ands or buts.”
Biden has been firm about his efforts to reach across the aisle, but he is making it evident that he does not intend to wait forever before pressing ahead with his agenda. Administration officials are expected to continue their outreach to Republican senators through this weekend and into next week, and Biden has personally reached out to more moderate GOP senators like Susan Collins of Maine and Rob Portman of Ohio.
Persuading that broader audience could be an effective tool as frustration grows across America about the slow pace of vaccinations and the anemic economy — one that could nudge wavering Democrats and some Republicans to get on board.
It was no coincidence that Vice President Kamala Harris popped up this week in the backyards of moderate Democratic senators like Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Joe Manchin of West Virginia, to press for swift passage of Biden’s proposal. Speaking to editors and executives from the Charleston Gazette-Mail and Herald-Dispatch in West Virginia, Harris made the case that lives are on the line.
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