FEBRUARY 3, 2021
WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Biden indicated in a call with House Democrats that he was open to sending $1,400 payments to a smaller group of Americans in the next round of coronavirus relief legislation and changing the overall price tag of his $1.9 trillion plan, according to people familiar with the call.
Mr. Biden told House Democrats on Wednesday that he wouldn’t change the amount of the proposed $1,400 payments, saying people had been promised that amount, according to the people.
Instead, he said he would consider targeting them differently than the previous two rounds of direct aid to Americans. Members of both parties have questioned whether the $1,400 payments he has proposed would go to people who don’t need the aid.
“We can better target that number. I’m OK with that,” Mr. Biden said, according to the people.
Mr. Biden also said he was flexible on the overall cost of the package, which Democrats have started advancing through Congress through a process that will allow them to pass it along party lines, according to one of the people familiar with the call. He said Democrats could make “compromises” on several programs in the proposal, the person said.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday that Mr. Biden is open to changes in the threshold for who would qualify for the $1,400 stimulus checks. “Further targeting means not the size of the check,” she said. “It means the income level of people who receive the check, and that’s something that has been under discussion.”
Ms. Psaki said Mr. Biden isn’t expecting the final package to look exactly like what he proposed. “He knows that that’s part of the legislative process,” she said.
Speaking to reporters at the White House on Wednesday after a meeting with Mr. Biden, Sen. Chris Coons (D., Del.) said: “We did have a conversation about the direct payments and how those might be modified in a way to ensure they’re targeted.” He added that Mr. Biden is “not going to forget the middle class.”
Mr. Biden later met with another group of Democratic senators in the Oval Office on Wednesday. After the meeting, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters it was a substantive discussion and many details of the package came up.
“We want to do it bipartisan, but we must be strong,” Mr. Schumer said. “We cannot dawdle, we cannot delay, we cannot dilute, because the troubles that this nation has and the opportunities that we can bring them are so large.”
The meetings are the latest in a series the new president has had with lawmakers. Mr. Biden hosted a group of 10 Senate Republicans at the White House on Monday to discuss their $618 billion alternative to his plan. He spoke with Senate Democrats on Tuesday, urging lawmakers to adopt a large package and calling the GOP plan too small.