WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Joe Biden’s proposal for a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package was based on an assessment of specific needs, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Wednesday, when asked about Republican objections about the total cost.
“The package wasn’t designed with the $1.9 trillion as a starting point. It was designed with the components that were necessary to give people the relief that they needed,” she told reporters during her first briefing after Biden’s inauguration.
Psaki said it was challenging to think about which components of the proposal could be eliminated since all were based on recommendations from economists and health professionals, but acknowledged that the final version of any legislation rarely looked exactly like the initial proposal.
Biden, a longtime U.S. lawmaker was no stranger to congressional negotiations, and would be closely involved in the process, Psaki said, adding: “It’s a conversation, and he is no stranger to the process of deal-making.”
She said the president’s clear preference was to move ahead with a bipartisan bill, but the White House was “not going to take any tools off the table” for the House and Senate – which will both be controlled by the Democrats – to get it done.
She also cited an outpouring of support from U.S. business groups to Senator Bernie Sanders for the proposal.
Biden was committed to invoking the Defense Production Act to ensure the supplies and materials needed to achieve his goal of having 100 million people vaccinated in the first 100 days of his presidency.
Further details would be released on Thursday, Psaki said.
(Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt and Andrea Shalal; Editing by Chris Reese & Shri Navaratnam)