Official White House Photo by Adam SchultzBy MICHELLE STODDART and LAUREN KING, ABC News
(WASHINGTON) -- Friday is Day 45 of the administration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.
Here is how the day is unfolding. All time Eastern:
Mar 05, 8:25 pm
Deal reached on unemployment benefits after 8 hours
After eight hours of inaction, Democrats have reached an agreement among themselves on how to proceed with jobless benefits with Sen. Joe Manchin, of West Virginia, on board.
Senate Democrats will now offer an amendment to extend the enhanced UI program through Sept. 6 at $300 per week, according to a Democratic aide. The House-passed bill was through Aug. 29.
The agreement also provides tax relief to workers who received unemployment insurance compensation by making the first $10,200 of UI benefits nontaxable for the first time to prevent surprise bills for the unemployed at end of year, which was not in the House-passed legislation. The provision applies only to households making under $150,000.
The agreement also extends tax rules regarding excess business loss limitations for one additional year through 2026.
-ABC News' Trish Turner
Mar 05, 5:41 pm
GOP senators make voices heard amid stall over unemployment provisions in COVID bill
Several Republican senators held a press conference Friday evening as the Senate entered its fifth hour of being paralyzed over how to proceed on amendments related to unemployment insurance. (It's now been about six hours since the last vote was called).
The Republicans said that a handful of moderate Democrats -- including Sen. Joe Manchin, . -- are being "worked over" by Democratic leadership and told that they cannot vote with Republicans on Sen. Rob Portman's, R-Ohio, amendment that would reduce weekly jobless benefits to $300 and end the program in July. Democrats have their own amendment that would reduce the jobless benefit to $300 weekly but extend the program through September and make the first $10,200 paid out untaxable.
Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and John Thune, R-S.D., both said they believe Biden is speaking with moderate members over the phone and pressuring them not to vote with Republicans -- though ABC has not confirmed that.
"It's now five and half hours actually since the last vote started. And because there was an amendment that we were prepared to offer that actually had bipartisan support, the Democrats have actually gone back behind closed doors and - as Senator Graham pointed out - tried to get the president on the line to try to pressure a couple of people not to work with Republicans," Thune said.
Graham said the stall makes Biden's call for unity on inauguration day "ring hollow" and that Democrats who may support the Portman amendment are being punished for bipartisanship.
"This break out of bipartisanship has lead to the Senate coming to a halt because they want it their way or no way," Graham said. "There is some bipartisanship we believe to change the bill, but apparently that's an unpardonable sin on the other side. We believe we have some Democrats who read the bill yesterday and found some things they didn't like, sat down with some Republicans to find a better way and the result is we've done nothing for four hours and 20 minutes to break somebody's political arm."
Thune, the Republican whip, conceded that he does not yet know if there would be enough Republican support on the Portman amendment to pass it, but he does believe there are several Democrats who might support it.
-ABC News' Allison Pecorin
Mar 05, 5:12 pm
Biden holds roundtable with people who would benefit from relief bill
On Friday afternoon, Biden hosted three guests for a roundtable to discuss what the passage of the COVID relief bill would mean for them as well as for their communities.
The people Biden spoke with shared their personal stories of struggle during the pandemic as Americans wait to find out what additional aid will be coming their way.
"People in our country are hurting right now, with less than two weeks from enhanced unemployment checks being cut out, and seven million kids don't have enough food -- 13 million people are behind in their rent," Biden said.
"It's gonna provide immediate relief for millions of people that are going to be able to use it in a very constructive way, and also grow the economy in the process," Biden promised of the package, which hit a snag on Friday over unemployment benefits.
"It is clearly, clearly necessary, a lifeline for getting the upper hand against COVID-19 and getting it under control. That isn't some academic discussion, it's about you. It's about people like you and families I grew up with all over America," he said.
Alma Williams, a paratransit driver from Greenbelt, Maryland, told the president "it's just a hard time, financially, mentally, emotionally, like across the board for children, adults, you know."
George Kerr, a Navy veteran who lost his home in a fire last year, has experienced housing instability worsened by the pandemic. A member of the LGBTQ community, he spoke not only about his own challenges, but the importance of the mental health services provided in the bill for LGBTQ seniors who are feeling isolated.
"Mental health is just a real important, and I'm glad to see there's a lot of money in there for mental health services, because it's incredibly important," Kerr said.
Lyda Vanegas, who helps run Mary's Center, which provides health care, education and social services to 60,000 people in the D.C. area, referred to George Kerr's experience and related it to what her own community is facing.
"He just breaks my heart because it's the same situation, they're losing jobs, that's the main thing, you know that. And with that, they have unstable housing, food insecurity, searching, traveling long distances to go and visit this site, the food distribution side. And that's, every day, they do long lines and the next day they have to do the same," she said of her clients.
-ABC News' Sarah Kolinovsky
Mar 05, 4:34 pm
Biden to hold press conference 'before the end of the month': Psaki
Biden has yet to hold a formal press conference 45 days into his administration, despite 15 of his predecessors having done so within that time frame.
When asked about the delay, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said a press conference would be held “before the end of the month” and argued Biden’s focus was on the country.
-ABC News' Molly Nagle
Mar 05, 3:57 pm
COVID relief bill hits early snag over unemployment benefits
Senate Democrats have hit a snag early in the marathon voting session on the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief legislation, as moderate Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin, W.Va., threatens to unravel an emerging agreement on how to handle jobless benefits in the package.
Democrats on Friday unveiled what they thought was an agreement on unemployment insurance, sponsored by Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., that would cut the weekly jobless benefit from the $400 allotment in the House bill to $300, while allowing the benefit to continue through September rather than through August. The agreement also included the first $10,200 paid out through the unemployment program being untaxed.
But Manchin, who has been urging his colleagues and the White House to further target the bill, isn't sold on the Carper proposal.
Further complicating matters for Democrats is an amendment expected from Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, which would slim down the jobless benefits even more. Portman's proposal would also cut the weekly benefit to $300 dollars, but it would end the program in July, potentially appealing to Manchin.
The Senate was at a standstill as Democrats worked to smooth out the kinks.
-ABC News' Allison Pecorin
Mar 05, 3:54 pm
Biden expected to be 'on the phone' this weekend if necessary about COVID relief bill
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said during a press briefing Friday that Biden was “deeply engaged” in getting the American Rescue Plan across the finish line and took “nothing for granted.”
"I fully expect him to be on the phone through the weekend with Democrats and Republicans as needed, answering questions, addressing needs," Psaki said.
When pressed on how big of a priority it was to get a Republican on board, Psaki demurred, arguing that there was bipartisan support outside of Washington.
Psaki also declined to say what the next legislative focus would be, despite Biden’s continued Oval Office meetings with bipartisan members of Congress on the issue of infrastructure, which many expect to be his next on his legislative agenda.
-ABC News' Molly Nagle
Mar 05, 3:33 pm
White House answers questions on unaccompanied minor policy
White House press secretary Jen Psaki was asked during a press briefing Friday several rounds of questions focused on the growing number of migrant children coming to the U.S. southern border.
She was asked specifically if the president felt his rhetoric on the campaign trail had contributed to the current spike in activity.
Psaki stressed the administration has sought to clarify that "this is not the time to come," but said by virtue of taking a different approach and allowing unaccompanied minors to stay, it “mathematically” makes sense that there would be an increase.
Despite the increase, Psaki unequivocally said the administration was not rethinking its policy when it comes to unaccompanied minors at the border.
"I think this issue requires us taking a step back as human beings and as mothers, of which I am one," Psaki said.
"They go through the processing system that everyone goes through, but we want to ensure that that is done by treating them humanely and with respect," Pskai said. "Many of them will be sent back home eventually, but we are talking about how we treat them as they come in the country."
Earlier in the day, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy sent a letter to Biden expressing "great concern" with the administration's approach to the "crisis" at the border and requested a meeting with the president on the issue.
-ABC News' Molly Nagle
Mar 05, 3:10 pm
Biden cites jobs report in final COVID relief bill pitch
Biden sought to make a last-minute pitch for his $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, currently under consideration in the Senate, during his briefing with economic advisers, pointing to February’s jobs report as evidence that the massive package is “urgently needed.”
“Our economy still has 9.5 million fewer jobs than it had this time last year," Biden said. "And at that rate, it would take two years to get us back on track.”
Biden said some of the growth last month came from the December COVID relief package, but said without additional resources the gains would diminish, highlighting that the expiration date for emergency unemployment benefit is less than two weeks away.
“We can’t afford one step forward and two steps backwards. We need to beat the virus, provide essential relief, and build an inclusive recovery. People need the help now. In less than two weeks, enhanced unemployment benefits will begin to expire for 11 million people,” Biden warned.
Biden did not take any questions from the press ahead of the weekly briefing, which is expected to include an update on the jobs numbers released today, along with an update on unemployment by race and women's labor force participation, according to the White House. Member of Biden's economic team, including Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen and Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers Cecilia Rouse, were also in attendance.
-ABC News' Molly Nagle
Mar 05, 2:20 pm
Biden to travel to Baltimore next week
Biden will travel to Baltimore, Maryland, on Wednesday to hold an event with the CEOs of Johnson & Johnson and Merck in the wake of their historic partnership to produce more COVID-19 vaccines.
Earlier this week, Biden announced a partnership between the pharmaceutical giants to help produce J&J's newly authorized vaccine and said the partnership meant there would be enough vaccine doses for every American adult by the end of May.
Mar 05, 2:10 pm
Sanders' attempt to add $15 minimum-wage amendment to COVID relief bill falls flat
The first amendment proposed during the marathon vote-a-rama for the COVID-19 relief bill, an amendment brought by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., to increase the federal minimum wage over to $15 an hour over five years, failed to be considered after a Senate procedural vote. Surprisingly, a whopping eight Democrats voted against consideration.
Though it was a procedural vote on whether to set the rules aside and approve the amendment, it was a good indication of where support stands in the caucus. The vote was 42-58, which fell far short of the 60 votes needed.
Though the "no" votes from some moderate Democrats like Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., and Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., were unsurprising, "no" votes from five other Democrats, Sens. Chris Coons, D-Del., Tom Carper, D-Del., Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., Sen. Angus King, D-Maine, and Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., were unexpected.
"If any Senator believes this is the last time they will cast a vote on whether or not to give a raise to 32 million Americans, they are sorely mistaken," Sanders said in a statement after his amendment fell flat. "We’re going to keep bringing it up, and we’re going to get it done because it is what the American people demand and need.”
-ABC News' Trish Turner
Mar 05, 1:03 pm
House GOP Leader McCarthy wants to meet with Biden on crossings at the southern border
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy sent a letter to Biden Friday expressing "great concern" with administration's approach to the "crisis" at the border, and requested a meeting with the president on the issue.
"We must acknowledge the crisis, develop a plan, and, in no uncertain terms, strongly discourage individuals from Mexico and Central America from ever making the dangerous journey to our southern border," McCarthy said in the letter.
Mar 05, 11:58 am
WH says Biden supports changes to unemployment benefits in COVID-19 relief bill
White House press secretary Jen Psaki weighed in on the change that would extend unemployment benefits through September at a reduced rate of $300 per week in a new Twitter thread, saying Biden supports the changes that together “would provide more relief to the unemployed than the current legislation.”
The President believes it is critical to extend expanded unemployment benefits through the end of September to help Americans who are struggling, as the President proposed in the American Rescue Plan.— Jen Psaki (@PressSec) March 5, 2021
“The President believes it is critical to extend expanded unemployment benefits through the end of September to help Americans who are struggling, as the President proposed in the American Rescue Plan. The compromise amendment achieves that while helping to address the surprise tax bills that many are facing by eliminating the first $10,200 of UI benefits from taxation for 2020. Combined, this amendment would provide more relief to the unemployed than the current legislation,” Psaki said over two tweets.
Mar 05, 11:58 am
Senate begins voting on COVID-19 bill amendments
The Senate has begun voting on amendments to the COVID-19 relief bill as part of a vote-a-rama.
The first amendment up for voting, introduced by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., would increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour over five years. Senators will vote on whether to even consider the amendment in a process vote, after Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., raised an objection to the amendment saying it was out of order in this fast-track reconciliation process. It would take 60 votes in the Senate to consider the amendment, something not likely to happen with the narrow Democratic majority.
"If people here want to vote against raising the minimum wage they have that right. ... But we should not shuffle off that responsibility to an unelected staffer. That's wrong," Sanders said, referring to the chamber's parliamentarian ruling that a straight increase of the hourly minimum to $15 was out of bounds under reconciliation.
Republicans have offered 1,008 other amendments to the bill.
Mar 05, 11:44 am
Senate Dems agree to jobless benefits changes in COVID-19 relief bill
Senate Democrats have agreed to an extension in jobless benefits through September at a reduced amount of $300 a week in the COVID-19 relief bill, according to two Democratic aides. The House bill originally included weekly benefits of $400 through August.
The agreement also "provides tax relief to workers who received unemployment insurance compensation by making the first $10,200 of benefits non-taxable for the first time to prevent surprise bills for unemployed at end of year," according to a Democratic aide.
Mar 05, 10:47 am
Schumer says Senate will pass COVID-19 relief bill 'no matter how long it takes'
In advance of Friday's vote-a-rama on the COVID-19 relief bill, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Democrats are prepared to press on without Republicans while Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell continued to characterize the bill as a "liberal wish list".
"We are not going to be timid in the face of big challenges, we are not going to delay when urgent action is called for," Schumer said. "The Senate will move forward today with the American Rescue Plan."
Schumer set the stage for a long night but said the Senate will remain at it "no matter how long it takes." McConnell also hinted that it could take quite a while, with senators proposing various amendments, saying that Republicans "have many ideas to improve the bill, many ideas."
As he has in days past, McConnell again criticized Democrats for moving forward without GOP support.
"This isn't a pandemic rescue package, it's a parade of left-wing pet projects they're ramming through during the pandemic," McConnell said.
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