Politics Schumer urges Democrats to stick together on $1.9T bill
Stimulus update: Congress' Covid relief negotiation talks get into full swing
Unemployment benefits will begin to lapse for millions of American In less than a month, putting the pressure squarely on Congress -- and Democratic leaders -- to usher through a $1.9 trillion Covid relief bill. © Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images The Capitol dome is seen early Wednesday morning before Amb. William Taylor And Deputy Assistant Secretary Of State George Kent testify at the first public impeachment hearing before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill November 13, 2019 in Washington, DC.
Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) warned Senate Democrats, including centrists who are balking at certain elements of President Biden's proposal, that failure to pass a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill would be a political disaster.
Schumer, who scored a win earlier this month when all 50 Democrats voted to pass a budget resolution laying the groundwork for the bill, told colleagues on a conference call they need to stay completely unified in the weeks ahead.
"I made a pitch today to our entire caucus and I said that we need to pass this bill. The American people, the American public demands it and everyone is going to have things that they want to see in the bill and we'll work hard to see if we can get those things in the bill," he told reporters after holding a call with the Senate Democratic caucus Tuesday.
'Stick together': Schumer pleads for party unity amid wage hike fight
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer Tuesday privately urged Democrats to remain united in an effort to pass a massive COVID-19 aid spending bill by a mid-March deadline, despite differences over whether the bill should include a minimum wage hike. © Provided by Washington Examiner “He’s begging all of us, despite any differences with any one section of the bill, that we hang together,” Majority Whip Richard Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, said after the party’s weekly caucus luncheon. “This is the signature provision of the Biden administration in terms of dealing with the pandemic.
"Job No. 1 is to pass the bill. Pass the bill we must. And I have confidence we will do it," Schumer said after he was asked about the power of centrist Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who says he opposes including a provision to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.
Schumer also has to worry about centrist Sens. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), who have flashed independent streaks.
Tester declined to say Tuesday whether he would support raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, explaining he wanted to see if the Senate parliamentarian would approve allowing the provision in a package Democrats plan to pass with a simple majority vote under special budgetary rules.
Earlier on Tuesday, Sen. Susan Collins (Maine), a key Republican centrist, said she would be surprised if any Republican colleagues vote for Biden's $1.9 trillion rescue plan.
Schumer Calls Biden's Stimulus Bill 'Overwhelmingly Popular,' McConnell Says Plan Works 'Backwards'
Schumer argues that the majority of Republican voters back Biden's stimulus plan but McConnell says the proposal is counterproductive for Americans.While Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer called the $1.9 trillion stimulus bill "overwhelmingly popular" among Americans, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell accused congressional Democrats of "working backwards" on the coronavirus relief package.
That means Schumer can't afford any defections from his caucus.
Asked what he would do to avoid defections from Manchin and other centrists from the COVID-relief bill or some of Biden's more controversial nominees, such as Deb Haaland, who has been nominated to head the Interior Department, Schumer simply held up his flip-phone.
"This is my answer," he said, holding aloft his old-fashioned cell phone. "I speak to my members all the time and I have a leadership that meets Monday night."
"We discuss it out and so far, so far, we've had great unity," he said. "We've had a lot of unity and we need to keep it.
"With 50 votes we need our unity and we're fighting to get it and so far, so good," he added.
The Senate is evenly split with each party controlling 50 seats but Democrats are in the majority because Vice President Harris can cast tie-breaking votes in their favor.
The Biden administration suffered a setback last week when Manchin announced he would oppose Neera Tanden, the president's choice to head the White House budget office, because of criticisms of Senate colleagues she has made on Twitter.
Live stimulus updates: Senate braces for marathon debate on Joe Biden's COVID relief plan .
Sen. Chuck Schumer said Democrats would be "on track" to pass the bill by March 14, when a federal boost to unemployment benefits expires. Start the day smarter. Get all the news you need in your inbox each morning. "I expect a hearty debate. I expect some late nights on the floor," he said. Schumer said the Senate could take a procedural vote as soon as Wednesday to begin debate and set up the process to pass the bill through the chamber later in the week.