Biden Adviser: Americans Need COVID Relief, ‘Couldn’t Care Less’ About Filibuster, Procedural Concerns

POLITICS & POLICY
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi reconvenes a joint session of Congress at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., January, 6 2021. (Jim Lo Scalzo/Pool via Reuters)

Jared Bernstein, a member of President Biden’s Council of Economic Advisers, claimed Sunday that Americans “really couldn’t care less” about what process lawmakers use to pass another round of COVID-19 relief legislation, as long as it is passed.

“Look, the American people really couldn’t care less about budget process, whether it’s regular order, bipartisanship, whether it’s filibuster, whether it’s reconciliation,” Bernstein told Fox News Sunday. 

People “need relief and they need it now,” he added.

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Some Democrats, including the Senate Budget Committee’s new chairman, Senator Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.), have suggested that Democrats can pass President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion bill using budget reconciliation, allowing them to pass the bill as part of taxing and spending policies with a simple majority, avoiding a Republican filibuster.

“If Republicans are willing to work with us to address that crisis, welcome – let’s do it,” Sanders said last week. “But what we cannot do is wait weeks and weeks and months to go forward. We’ve got to act now.”

Ten Republican senators on Sunday proposed their own framework for a COVID-19 relief package, calling on Biden to work alongside them in drafting a smaller, more targeted $600 billion package.

The lawmakers, including Senators Susan Collins (R., Maine), Lisa Murkowski (R., Alaska), Mitt Romney (R., Utah) and Rob Portman (R., Ohio), sent a letter to Biden saying they “welcome the opportunity to work with (him) in a bipartisan manner to combat the Covid-19 virus and provide continued support to families struggling during the pandemic.”

Bernstein said that the president is “willing to negotiate” with Republicans but that relief needs to be passed as quickly as possible to avoid a further surge in unemployment.

“If we don’t get this package as designed out the door quickly, we risk having four million fewer jobs at the end of this year,” he said, citing Moody’s, adding that failure to move quickly would “risk taking a year longer to get to full employment.”

However, Republicans have voiced concern that using reconciliation would set a dangerous precedent.

Portman, in discussing the GOP members’ proposal on CNN on Sunday, said he believes it is “not in the interest of the Democratic party” to use reconciliation, because “it will set President Biden down a path of partisanship that will poison the well for other bipartisanship we’ll need on so many issues.”

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