President Biden and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen will meet with some of the nation's top chief executives including JPMorgan Chase's Jamie Dimon and Walmart's Doug McMillon on Tuesday to drum up support for a nearly $2 trillion coronavirus relief package.
Gap CEO Sonia Syngal, Lowe's CEO Marvin Ellison and Chamber of Commerce CEO Tom Donohue will also attend the Oval Office meeting to discuss "the critical need for the American Rescue Plan to save our economy,” the White House said.
The meeting comes as congressional Democrats plow ahead with passing the massive spending measure using a procedural tool known as budget reconciliation, which will allow them to approve the bill without any Republican buy-ins.
Although Biden — who campaigned on uniting the country and ending partisan bickering — maintained for weeks that a bipartisan deal was possible, Republicans criticized the size and scope of the White House's proposal. Biden last week rejected a $600 billion counterproposal from a group of 10 moderate GOP lawmakers and called on Congress to fast-track passage of the $1.9 trillion bill.
“If I have to choose between getting help right now to Americans who are hurting so badly and getting bogged down in a lengthy negotiation or compromising on a bill that’s up to the crisis, that’s an easy choice,” Biden said Friday. “I’m going to help the American people who are hurting now.”
Under a draft of the legislation released by the House Ways and Means Committee on Monday night, $1,400 stimulus checks would go to Americans earning up to $75,000 annually, despite a last-minute push by some centrist lawmakers to lower the threshold. But the checks would phase out faster than previous rounds, cutting off individuals who earn more than $100,000 and couples earning more than $200,000.
The proposal is also expected to increase supplemental unemployment benefits by $400 a week through August, allocate $160 billion for vaccine distribution and provide $350 billion in new funding for state and local government aid, along with a slew of other provisions.
The House Ways and Means Committee is set to debate its part of the massive reconciliation bill on Wednesday and go through Friday. Lawmakers are hoping to pass the stimulus checks, part of a broader $1.9 trillion relief package, no later than March 14, when supplemental unemployment benefits are poised to run out for millions of Americans.
If Congress approves the emergency aid package, the U.S. will return to full employment next year, Yellen predicted on Sunday during an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union.” Otherwise, she said, the labor market will take years to reach its pre-crisis levels.
In total, the U.S. has recovered roughly half of the 22 million jobs lost during the first two months of the pandemic. There are still about 9.9 million more Americans out of work than there were in February before the crisis began, according to Labor Department data.
Although the labor market quickly rebounded in April, May and June from the early days of the pandemic, job growth has cooled considerably since then, with economists increasingly warning that the recovery could plateau — or reverse itself.
The Labor Department on Friday reported that employment rose by just 49,000 last month, a lackluster start to the new year as COVID-19 and restrictions implemented to curb its spread continued to weigh on businesses.
The unemployment rate edged down to 6.3%.