Weekday White House: "Never doubt Speaker Pelosi"

The quote in the title came from a comment White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki made today in response a reporter's question asking whether the White House believed it when Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she fully expected Congress to send a massive COVID relief package to the President's desk by mid-March. And most of the press briefing today focused on the need for economic relief. Jared Bernstein, a member of the President's Council of Economic Advisors, joined the briefing to stress the priority of the American Rescue Plan.

JOBS REPORT HIGHLIGHTS NEED FOR ECONOMIC STIMULUS

The January jobs report shows a floundering recovery badly in need of cash infusion.

  • Topline: 49,000 jobs were added in January, and the unemployment rate stands at 6.3%. The jobs numbers for December and November were revised downward:
    • November: jobs added revised down from 336,000 jobs added to 264,000.
    • December: jobs lost revised up from 140,000 jobs lost to 227,000 jobs lost.
    • In total, during November and December, the US economy added 159,000 fewer jobs than initially reported.
  • The US economy now has 10 million fewer jobs than it did in February 2020.
  • 40% of those unemployed have been unemployed for 6 months or longer.
  • People of color are more likely to be unemployed. Unemployment rates, broken down by race, is as follows: 9.2% among Blacks, 8.6% among Hispanics, 6.6% among Asians, and 5.7% among whites.
  • Bernstein said the numbers indicate a stalled recovery and highlight the urgent need for Congress to act on the rescue package.
  • Strong relief is needed for equitable and racially inclusive recovery.
  • POTUS not willing to budge on additional $1400 direct payments in addition to the $600 already included in the package Congress enacted in December. But the checks have 3 components, some of which may be negotiable:
    1. Threshold: the income levels at which the payment start to become lower and is completely eliminated. Those who make $300K and did not lose income don't need the checks, but middle class families must not be left out.
    2. Levels: $1400 is non-negotiable.
    3. Phaseout: After a threshold level, the payments will start to get phased out (getting lower), and at another, it will completely phase out. How that phaseout happens is under negotiation.
  • There is consensus in the White House that the financial recovery package in 2009 in the wake of the Great Recession was helpful but inadequate at $800 billion, and that Republicans did not work with Democrats in good faith then. GOP is now suffering the consequence of that as Democrats are moving to reconciliation for a big package.
  • White House believes minimum wage increase should be part of the COVID package as it helps essential workers.
  • Psaki reiterated that the ARP continues to enjoy wide and bipartisan support from Americans.

OTHER IMPORTANT NOTES

  • The Acting Attorney General will attend funerals of the two FBI agents who were killed in the line of duty in Florida.
  • The President will be in Delaware for the weekend.
  • Next week, the White House will unveil a new effort to regularly communicate directly with the American people, ala FDR's Fireside Chats.
  • POTUS visits week of 2/8:
    • Monday, 2/8: Virtual tour of vaccination centers.
    • Wednesday, 2/10: POTUS @ Pentagon.
    • Thursday, 2/11: POTUS @ NIH.
  • The Administration is planning a major public affairs campaign to get people vaccinated.
Let's do this again Monday.