Weekday White House: Biden won't budge

Today's White House press conference was mostly focused on COVID relief and the American Rescue Plan, although some important topics in foreign policies and other areas was also covered.

Highlight of the day: Press Secretary Jen Psaki patiently explained to a reporter who pretended not to understand it that the $1,400 direct payment in President Biden's American Rescue Plan, added to the $600 in direct payments enacted by Congress in December.

COVID relief and the American Rescue Plan: Biden won't budge.

  • President Biden spoke with the House Democratic Conference by phone and met with Senate Majority Leader Schumer and Democratic Chairs of committees of jurisdiction on the president's economic relief plan.
  • POTUS stressed that the relief must meet the moment and the crisis. POTUS will not budge on certain core objectives of the ARP:
    • $1400 direct payments on top of the $600 provided in December.
    • Funding for food security.
    • Extending the eviction moratorium.
    • State and local aid.
  • Psaki noted the differences between the proposal advanced by Republican senators who met with Biden on Monday and what the President and Democrats want:
    • GOP's proposed cutoff for direct payments, those making $40,000 and below, is too low.
    • GOP proposal has smaller unemployment enhancement of $300, compared to ARP's $400 per week.
    • Republican plan has no state and local aid.
    • Republican plan does not extend rental assitance and eviction moratorium.
    • GOP does not provide substantial relief for families with children.
  • POTUS sees potential room to work with Republicans to on the income cutoff to better target direct payments - there has been some legitimate criticism that some who are very well-to-do and do not need the money could still get substantial checks - and on small business relief.
  • Psaki noted that a new study suggesting relief is unnecessary finds that the economy is already almost at capacity, indicating serious flaws in modeling.

Foreign policy and national security:

  • POTUS will visit the State Department tomorrow and make remarks.
  • The administration is conducting a review of hostile Russian activities, including election interference and the hacking of US government assets and will act once review is complete.
  • Psaki called media outlets RT and Sputnik Russian propaganda tools.
  • The State Department has formally termed the Burmese situation a 'coup', opening up additional tools to respond. The United States views the detention of civilian government leaders and the emergency declaration by the Burmese military as an affront to the rule of law.
  • Administration is also conducting a threat assessment on domestic violent extremism.

Other topics:

  • The White House will not comment on the fate of Marjorie Taylor Greene. Psaki said the President considers the matter Congress's business.
  • The administration is monitoring restrictive voting laws introduced in multiple states and would look to expand voting instead.
  • While there has been some progress on confirming the president's cabinet nominees, more needs to be made in the Senate.

Let's do this again tomorrow.

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