WASHINGTON (AP) — United States (US) President Joe Biden’s ambitious opening bid, his USD1.9 trillion American Rescue economic package, will test the new president’s relationship with Congress and force a crucial choice between his policy vision and a desire for bipartisan unity.
Biden became president this week with the pandemic having already forced Congress to approve USD4 trillion in aid, including USD900 billion just last month. And those efforts have politically exhausted Republican lawmakers, particularly conservatives who are panning the new proposal as an expensive, unworkable liberal wish-list. Yet, Democrats, now with control of the House, Senate and White House, want the new president to deliver ever more sweeping aid and economic change.
On Friday, Biden took a few beginning steps, signing executive orders at the White House.
But he also declared a need to do much more and quickly, saying that even with decisive action the nation is unlikely to stop the pandemic in the next several months and well over 600,000 could die.
“The bottom line is this: We are in a national emergency. We need to act like we’re in a national emergency,” he said. “So we got to move with everything we got. We’ve got to do it together. I don’t believe Democrats or Republicans are going hungry and losing jobs, I believe, Americans are going hungry and losing jobs.”
The limits of what Biden can achieve on his own without Congress was evident in the pair of executive orders he signed on Friday. The orders would increase food aid, protect jobseekers on unemployment, make it easier to obtain government aid and clear a path for federal workers and contractors to get a USD15 hourly minimum wage.
White House National Economic Council Director Brian Deese called the orders a “critical lifeline”, rather than a substitute for the larger aid package that he said must be passed quickly.