Biden calls spending on stimuli and vaccinations

WASHINGTON – President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. is expected on Thursday to outline proposals for billion-dollar government spending to combat the coronavirus epidemic and its impact on the economy, initially focusing on a large-scale expansion of the nation’s vaccination program and virus testing capacity.

In an evening speech, Mr. Biden details his plans, which he has been honing with his economic team for weeks. The efforts cover the epidemic, the economy, health, education, climate change and other domestic priorities, Brian Deese, series director of the National Economic Council, told Reuters Next at Wednesday’s conference. The most important Democrats in Congress have said in recent days that they are preparing for the comprehensive efforts of two bills.

“At this point, the president-elect feels we need to act aggressively for both rescue and recovery,” Mr. Deese said.

Money to support $ 2,000 in direct payments to individuals as well as small businesses and local and state governments – elements that Mr. Biden has emphasized in recent weeks – are part of the original package, Mr Deese said. Others said of Mr. Biden’s mindset that he too is calling for the first piece of legislation to extend the extension of supplementary federal unemployment benefits, which expire in March for many workers, and provide additional assistance to tenants.

The first package also plans a significant increase in spending on vaccinations, testing and contact tracing, Mr Deese said, and Mr Biden is earning enough money to open most schools to increase labor force participation.

“We need to open schools,” Mr. Deese said, “so that parents, and especially women who are disproportionately abused in this economy, can get back to work.

Transition group officials would not say on Wednesday how expensive Mr Biden’s proposal could be or announce the cost estimate on Thursday. Last week, Mr Biden said he expected his entire agenda to cost “trillions” dollars.

The proposals in the second tranche are likely to be greater than in the first, and Democrats plan to pay all or part of them by raising taxes on companies and the rich. The second package is expected to focus on job creation and infrastructure, including hundreds of billions in spending on clean energy projects such as electric vehicle charging stations and health and education spending, Mr Biden’s team and leading congressional Democrats said.

The first bill is likely to be deficit-funded, in line with the Covid-19 bill approved by Congress last year.

Mr Biden said he was working to give Republican support to his plans and would need 10 Republican votes in the Senate to tackle the filibuster. But the Supreme Democrats in the House and Senate are preparing to move quickly to a parliamentary process known as budget conciliation if they can only get a simple majority in the Senate. Republicans bypassed the filibuster procedure and approved Mr. Trump’s signing tax cuts in 2017.

Democrats on both sides of the Capitol – including New York Senator Chuck Schumer, who will become the majority leader – have called on Mr Biden to spend more than he originally planned in the initial aid bill, experts in the talks said.

Many Democrats in the House and Senate urged Mr Biden this week to put items in the first bill, including targeted subsidies for restaurants and a temporary extension of the income tax and child tax credit, which could cost just over $ 100 billion. Economists say expanding these credits could sharply reduce child poverty when many low-income parents have lost their jobs and turn to food banks for help.

Congressional Democrats can legislate for the extension of these credits, regardless of whether Mr. Biden requests it. After Congress passed the $ 900 billion subsidy bill, which did not include the Democrats ’full priority list in December, Mr Schumer told committee members to draft a bill that would include an extension of these tax credits, as well as additional direct payments and state aid. and local subsidies. governments.

Democrats are also urging Mr Biden to include in his proposal provisions for the automatic renewal of federal unemployment benefits and other benefits until the unemployment rate falls to a certain level, in the event that Congress approves more rescue bills in the future.