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Jan. 14, 2021, 8:08 p.m. EST

Biden calls for $1,400 checks in $1.9 trillion relief plan

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Victor Reklaitis Robert Schroeder

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Opinion:   Economy may need more public infrastructure spending if the pandemic leaves Americans cautiously saving more

Biden has rolled out his plan as the tally of U.S. COVID-19 cases has topped 23 million, and the latest Labor Department data showed jobless claims surging to a five-month high as more workers lost jobs due to business closures and restrictions to combat the pandemic’s winter resurgence.  

As part of his plan to fight the pandemic, Biden has said he will release available vaccine doses after coming into office on Jan. 20, instead of keeping some in reserve for second doses. He called the federal vaccine rollout to this point “a dismal failure.”

Now read: Biden plans to distribute COVID-19 vaccine doses immediately

Beacon Policy Advisors analysts said that while they believe Biden will try to advance a coronavirus package on a bipartisan basis, they expect pressure on the president-elect to use a process known as budget reconciliation to push through new aid. Budget reconciliation is a procedure allowing legislation to be passed using a simple rather than two-thirds majority in the Senate.

“Ultimately we expect congressional Democrats, led by Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi [of California], to convince Biden that the only practical route to achieve the level of assistance that Democrats believe is necessary is via the reconciliation process that only requires a simple majority in the Senate, thus allowing Democrats to pass the legislation on their own — if they can reach unanimous agreement on its specifics among themselves,” Beacon analysts said in a note.

Democrats continue to have control of the House of Representatives but also are set to run a Senate that is split 50-50 because Democratic Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will cast tiebreaking votes.

“We will get right to work to turn President-elect Biden’s vision into legislation that will pass both chambers and be signed into law,” Pelosi and Schumer said in a joint statement, adding that they “hope that our Republican colleagues will work with us to quickly enact it.”

Some Republicans already were signaling opposition, with the Republican Study Committee, a group of conservative House lawmakers, tweeting that the “stimulus checks in Biden’s ‘relief’ plan cost as much as the inflation adjusted cost of World War I.”

During his speech, Biden said that on Friday he will lay out his vaccination plan and then next month, before a joint session of Congress, will roll out a “Build Back Better” recovery proposal that will serve as the second part of his “two-step plan to build a bridge to the other side of the crisis.”

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