Biden calls Democrats, urges big COVID-19 relief bill

Senate Democrats took a first step on Tuesday toward passing a coronavirus relief bill, following a call with President Biden, who urged them to “go big.”

Biden signaled that he is rejecting a $618 billion proposal sponsored by 10 GOP senators as “too small” even though he is open to some of their ideas.

“It was clear,” said Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) after the call. “Go big and be prompt because the American public is really hurting and really needs this.”

Biden told Democrats that his clear preference is for Congress to pass a $1.9 trillion package, despite concerns voiced by Republicans about the impact on the deficit.

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Biden dismissed a $618 billion proposal sponsored by 10 moderate Republicans, which does not include aid to state and local governments and limits the size of direct checks to individuals to $1,000, as falling short of what’s needed.

After the call concluded, the Senate voted 50-49 on a straight party-line vote to proceed to a budget resolution that greenlights passing a separate coronavirus relief bill through reconciliation, avoiding a 60-vote legislative filibuster.

The House is expected to pass its budget resolution Wednesday. The Senate will now need to go through tens of hours of debate and a marathon session known as a vote-a-rama, before they can hold a final vote on the budget resolution.