- The Washington Times - Friday, February 19, 2021

President Biden said Friday he’s “open” to trimming the cost of his $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package that the House hopes to pass by the end of next week.

“I’m grateful that the Senate and the House are moving quickly and I’m prepared to hear their ideas on how to make the package better and make it cheaper. I’m open to that,” Mr. Biden said after touring a Pfizer coronavirus vaccine manufacturing site in Michigan.

But he questioned which items, like additional money for food stamps and housing assistance, could be left on the chopping block.

“What would they have me cut? What would they have me leave out?” he said.

The House Budget Committee released the bill text Friday and is scheduled to take up the package Monday. Democrats want to get the plan through both the House and the Senate by mid-March, when expanded unemployment benefits from an earlier package are due to expire.

Republicans say that with billions still to be spent from earlier relief packages, it doesn’t make sense to shovel even more taxpayer cash out the door.

Analysts have questioned the need for the $350 billion for state and local governments in the plan after states brought in more revenue than had been expected when the pandemic first took hold last year.

The package also includes direct payments of up to $1,400 for millions of Americans, $160 billion for coronavirus-related efforts on vaccines, testing and tracing, and $170 billion for K-12 schools and colleges, among other items.

For the moment, it includes a gradual increase in the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour. Congress’ budget scorekeeper estimated that the minimum-wage hike would cost about 1.4 million jobs, though it would also lift about 900,000 people out of poverty.

Mr. Biden says he thinks Senate rules will keep the minimum wage hike out of the package.


• David Sherfinski can be reached at dsherfinski@washingtontimes.com.

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