President Joe Biden told House Democrats on a conference call Wednesday he is open to narrowing the distribution of $1,400 stimulus checks in his Covid-19 relief proposal to focus on poor and middle-class people, according to audio of the call obtained by CNN
“I think we can better target the number,” he said, according to the recording.
In the call, Biden also warned his party about the dangers of engaging in intraparty battles, contending their strength is in their unity with narrow majorities in both the House and the Senate.
“We hold a small majority in the House, and the barest majorities in the Senate, and we’re gonna succeed or fail together,” Biden said. “There have been three Democratic presidents in 28 years. Each one faced a tough midterm loss that cost a lot. It happened in ’94 and it happened in 2010. We don’t want to let that happen here. So, let’s stick together.”
Biden made clear he wasn’t willing to dramatically drop the $1.9 trillion price tag for his plan, but also said he’s willing to make the stimulus checks more narrowly targeted. Biden told House Democrats the additional $1,400 stimulus checks are a key component of the White House package, saying of the checks “people need it and frankly, they’ve been promised it.”
“I think we can better target the number, I’m OK with that,” Biden said of the distribution of stimulus checks. “But … I’m not gonna start my administration by breaking a promise to the American people.”
Biden later emphasized he wants to relief to go to poor and middle-class families, saying, “I don’t think we need to be in the business of helping those folks making $300 grand a year.”
That point could help Biden win over some centrist Senate Democrats, namely Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who has called for more targeted relief. With a 50-50 Senate, Biden needs to ensure that all wings of the party are united if they’re unable to win over GOP backing.
“I don’t think the problem is that we’re going too big to deal with this crisis,” Biden said. “The problem is we’re going too small.”
Biden also mentioned the $600 billion relief plan proposed by Republicans as a non-starter, saying “it’s not in the cards” to compromise to that low of a number.
“There’s compromises available,” Biden told House Democrats. “But the idea that we’re going to go out and compromise and go from … ($1.9 trillion) to 600 billion, it’s just – it’s just not in the cards.”
CNN’s Aaron Pellish and Sarah Fortinsky contributed to this report.