Biden Tells Brown, Senate Dems to ‘Go Big’ with Relief

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown joined President Joe Biden and other Senate committee chairmen Wednesday at the White House to discuss efforts to advance COVID-19 relief legislation. 

Brown, D-Ohio, and his fellow senators met with Biden for about 90 minutes to discuss details of the legislation, according to a White House pool report. Last month, Biden proposed a $1.9 trillion relief package, the American Rescue Plan.

“They had a productive conversation on the status of legislative proceedings on the package,” Jen Psaki, White House press secretary, said. “They were in agreement over the need to move swiftly to ensure that we get $1,400 direct payments to middle- and working-class Americans as soon as possible; that we need to take steps to get immediate relief to the Americans who are struggling with food insecurity or facing eviction; and that we need to provide more resources to get shots into arms faster.”  
  
Additionally, Biden and the senators agreed on “the need to go big and to meet the challenges we face with a response that will get the job done” in terms of beating the virus and protecting the economy from long-term damage, she said. They also agreed to work on finding “areas of bipartisan agreement” in the legislation.

“We had a long, substantive meeting where we discussed many of the details of the bill that we have to put together over the next few weeks,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said following the meeting, according to a White House pool report. 

As incoming chairman of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, Brown will help shepherd “key provisions” of the package through his committee and the package, according to a news release issued by his office following the meeting.  

Brown has been in discussions with members of the Biden administration about key priorities he would seek in a relief bill, including housing assistance, help for small businesses, vaccine distribution, tax relief for middle class families, direct cash assistance and other priorities he has sought since the beginning of the pandemic.

“President Biden and Senate Democrats are committed to getting critical COVID relief to the American people as quickly as possible,” he said. “I look forward to working with my colleagues on the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee to ensure these key priorities are included in the larger package and signed into law.” 

Wednesday’s meeting with the Senate Democratic chairman follows Biden’s Sunday meeting with 10 Senate Republicans, including Ohio’s Rob Portman. The GOP lawmakers last week proposed a $618 COVID package, less than a third of the size of the Democrats’ proposal. 

Both Brown and Schumer expressed willingness to work with Republicans. Brown, according to a spokesperson in his office, will look at all avenues to get a package passed quickly and has actively encouraged his GOP colleagues to work with Senate Democrats on approving a relief package.  

Schumer cited “universal agreement we must go big and bold” in a relief bill.

“We hope our Republican colleagues will join us in that big, bold program that America needs,” he continued. “We want to do it bipartisan, but we must be strong. We must not 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.”

Discussions are continuing among members of the bipartisan group of senators, including Portman, that helped craft the previous $900 billion package Portman spokeswoman Emmalee Cioffi said Wednesday. 

“Sen. Portman is still hopeful that we’ll be able to find a bipartisan path forward that focuses on helping Americans who are most in need,” she said. 

Copyright 2021 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.