White House open to using reconciliation to pass Covid relief bill

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Press secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday the White House is not be ruling out reconciliation as a means to pass President Biden’s $1.9T Covid relief bill. 

Reconciliation is a special process for budget-related legislation that allows for a 51-majority vote, rather than the 60 votes normally required to advance a bill. Democrats have 51 votes in the Senate with Vice President Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking vote. 

ABC News correspondent Mary Bruce during the daily White House briefing brought up comments Sen. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., made on the floor earlier Thursday, saying Democrats would move forward with Biden’s coronavirus relief proposal “with or without” Republicans. 

“Does this hurt your call for bipartisanship and are you urging them to give this more time?” Bruce asked Psaki. 

SCHUMER: DEMS PREPARED TO PASS CORONAVIRUS RELIEF ‘WITH OR WITHOUT’ REPUBLICANS 

The president wants this to be a bipartisan package, regardless of the mechanisms,” she replied. “Republicans can still vote for a package even if it goes through with reconciliation. There’s no blood oath anybody signs. They are able to support it regardless.”

“But it doesn’t seem like you can get the speed you want and the bipartisanship, so which is the priority?” the reporter shot back. 

“We refute that notion, these challenges the American public are facing are urgent,” Psaki said. “We’re confident that people are going to listen to [Americans] and support a bipartisan bill.”

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“Part of unifying the country is addressing the problems Americans are facing,” she added. 

GOP senators have balked at the Biden bill’s $1.9T price tag, particularly after the $900B bill signed by President Trump in December.  Asked if Biden would be willing to sign a relief bill that didn’t have any Republican votes, Psaki said: “We’re not there yet.”

She added that the White House is not looking to split the bill. “We’re not looking to split the package. That is not a proposal from the White House,” she said. 

Psaki said that the president was having calls with Democrats and Republicans to drum up support for the bill, and he was open to hearing from the GOP on how to make the legislation more “targeted,” though Biden already believes it is. 

“Our focus is making it better,” she said, “but we’re not going to do this a piecemeal way.” 

“I sense skepticism about the bill getting passed. We don’t feel that,” Psaki said jokingly.

Psaki was also asked about Biden’s record number of executive orders in his first week in office.

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“He ran on a pledge to restore unity, he promised to be a president for all Americans, but since he’s gotten into office, he’s been largely acting unilaterally,” one reporter noted. Biden has signed over 30 executive orders since taking office Jan. 20. President Trump averaged 55 executive orders per year and Presidents Obama and Bush were at around 35. 

Psaki said that Biden needed to act urgently to address American pain and suffering. “That includes overturning some of the detrimental, harmful and at times immoral, policies and action of the previous administration,” she said. 

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