WASHINGTON D.C. — President Joe Biden is pushing for bipartisan support on a new $1.9 trillion COVID relief package.
"He wants this to be a bipartisan package. He's listening to Democrats and Republicans,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said. "We all are to ensure that's what it looks like at the end of the day."
Right now, Biden's proposal includes $1400 stimulus checks, a boost to unemployment benefits, more money for vaccines and testing, and an increase of the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.
But Representative Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, said many Republicans are arguing it’s too big and broad.
“It was only a few weeks ago that President Trump actually signed the 900-plus billion COVID Relief Act, about $100 billion for schools, more money for vaccines and testing, a whole number of different things that really came together in a pretty broad-based bipartisan vote,” Upton said. “The question is where is that money? Obviously, it isn't all out yet, so what impact does it have? And we've asked those questions to the White House and yet to have answers."
Upton is a member of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, a group heavily involved in talks related to COVID relief. He says there is bipartisan support for items like vaccine rollout funding but not so much for including a minimum wage increase with it.
“The question is, does [President Biden] want to a win that really can be pretty broad and he can crow about it, or does he want to try and push something through that quite frankly may not make it because --not only the cost -- but really get picked apart for some of the things that are unrelated to COVID they're trying to include?” Upton said.
"The package that President Biden proposed is more than double what President Trump signed into law and includes things like a $15 minimum wage, which would be I think, a death blow for particularly our restaurants in the state of Michigan," Upton added.
Democrats could potentially pass a bill on their own through budget reconciliation, but it would take the support of virtually all Democratic lawmakers in Congress.
“I hope we don't need it, but if needed, we will have it," says House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on the potential use of the tactic.
On top of that, with COVID cases still rising and a vaccine shortage present in several states, there is added pressure to get something done soon.
“The White House is going to have to make a call in terms of what which fork do they want to go, cause the calendar is shrinking,” Upton added.