GOP Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida is calling for President-elect Joe Biden to press for $2,000 direct payments to Americans on the first day of his presidency as a show of unity following the D.C. insurrection last week.
“Last Wednesday was one of the darkest days in our history. All across our nation, people are looking for answers and demanding accountability, but they are also desperate for hope: hope that political leaders in Washington can begin taking steps to heal our deeply divided nation,” the Florida Republican wrote in a letter to Biden dated Tuesday.
He added, “It would send a powerful message to the American people if, on the first day of your presidency, you called on the House and Senate to send you legislation to increase the direct economic impact payments to Americans struggling due to the pandemic from $600 to $2,000.”
Rubio and Biden both supported $2,000 direct payments in the Covid-19 relief bill passed late last year. That push was blocked by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. Biden has not yet laid out his full agenda for the next round of coronavirus-related relief, but is expected to do so Thursday. He was already expected to push for $2,000 payments.
Democrats have more leverage headed into the next round of talks thanks to the party’s wins in two Democratic runoff elections in Georgia last week that gave them control of the upper chamber of Congress. Democrats will soon hold the Senate, House of Representatives and the White House. Biden will be inaugurated on Jan. 20 at noon.
Following the news of the Georgia wins, Biden said that he will push for “trillions” in spending on Covid-19 relief.
“It is necessary to spend the money now,” Biden said last week. “The answer is yes, it will be in the trillions of dollars, an entire package.”
The economy, battered by the health crisis since March, has recently shown signs that it is once again getting worse after months of tepid recovery. Nonfarm payrolls fell by 140,000 last month, marking the first net job losses for the economy since the early days of lockdown in the U.S.
In the letter, Rubio asked that Biden not to let the payments “get caught up in the normal political games by adding a wish list of far left or other unrelated priorities to this legislation.”
“All too often, popular and necessary legislation is used as leverage to secure passage for policies that cannot pass on their own merit,” Rubio wrote. “We have already seen it in the midst of the pandemic when additional funding for small businesses was blocked repeatedly for months on end.”
The Biden transition team did not return a request for comment.
Among the possible measures Biden has suggested he might push for in the Covid-19 relief package is an increase of the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, a longstanding Democratic priority. Two-thirds of Americans said last year that they are in favor of raising the minimum wage to that level, according to a Pew Research Center poll.
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