President Biden threatened to review sanctions on Myanmar after the military seized power and detained elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi over the weekend.
“The United States removed sanctions on Burma over the past decade based on progress toward democracy. The reversal of that progress will necessitate an immediate review of our sanction laws and authorities, followed by appropriate action,” Biden said in a statement Monday.
He called the situation a “direct assault on the country’s transition to democracy and the rule of law,” and called on the international community to “press the Burmese military to immediately relinquish the power they seized.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki was pressed on a section of the statement that says, “The United States is taking note of those who stand with the people of Burma in this difficult hour,” and asked whether the suggestion was a warning to China specifically.
Psaki wouldn’t directly address the question, but rather, said it was “a message to all countries in the region and countries who will be asked to respond or to consider what the appropriate response will be in reaction to the events.”
The White House does not intend to reschedule planned executive actions and remarks on immigration set for tomorrow, despite a delay in confirming Department of Homeland Security Secretary nominee Alejandro Mayorkas.
“We are certainly hopeful he will be confirmed tomorrow, and we have every intention of moving forward tomorrow with the immigration executive actions that we have discussed here,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said at Monday’s press briefing.
The Mayorkas confirmation vote was postponed from Monday to Tuesday due to inclement weather.
Though White House officials discussed having President Biden sign a round of immigration-related executive orders as soon as last Friday, it was pushed to this week, two officials previously told CNN.
President Biden is expected to sign executive orders that would address root causes of migration from Central America and rescind Trump-era policies. Biden is also expected to create a task force reuniting families that were separated at the US-Mexico border.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that the need to pass an additional Covid-19 relief package is “incredibly urgent,” hours before a group of Senate Republicans will meet with President Biden to discuss a bipartisan deal.
“It’s incredibly urgent,” Psaki said, citing access to unemployment insurance, food insecurity, and the need for funding for vaccine distributions and public schools.
“There is urgency. This is what the president is spending his time on, as evidenced by the meeting later today and what the majority of our senior team is focused on at this moment. But there is still time to make changes to continue to have a discussion and that’s why we’re kind of escalating the number of meetings and engagements we’re having through the course of this week,” she added.
The administration is facing a crucial test this week – in addition to the President’s meeting, Democrats are beginning the reconciliation process to potentially pass legislation on their own, which could potentially poison the well for a bipartisan deal.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki touted the size of the President’s proposed American Rescue Plan ahead of an Oval Office meeting today between President Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and 10 Republican lawmakers who have put forward a counterproposal.
She said that the president thinks the size of the package must be commensurate with the scope of the ongoing crisis “hence why he proposed a package that’s $1.9 trillion.”
“There is obviously a big gap between 600 billion and $1.9 trillion. I don’t believe any of us are mathematicians, but clearly the amount needs to be closer to what he proposed than smaller,” Psaki said, underscoring the administration’s view that the package should remain closer to what the President proposed than the GOP Senators counterproposal.
When asked if it was more important for the bill to be big or bipartisan, Pskai said the president believes he can have both, but added that there are a number of paths forward, including reconciliation.
“Well, I think the President believes we can, and there is a historic evidence that it is possible to take a number of paths, including through reconciliation, if that is the path that’s pursued, and for the vote to be bipartisan. But it’s important to him that he hears this group out on their concerns, on their ideas,” Psaki said at Monday’s White House press briefing.
The GOP proposal is less than one third the size of the President’s $1.9 trillion dollar proposal and does not include many of the provisions included in the American Rescue Plan, including additional aid for state, local and territorial governments.
Psaki said today’s meeting is an example of President Biden’s willingness to be bipartisan and will be an opportunity to have an exchange of ideas, but it will not be a forum for the President to make or accept an offer.
“He felt it was, you know, an effort to engage and engage on a bipartisan basis, and that’s why he invited them to the White House today,” Psaki said. She added that Biden will engage with Democrats in the Oval Office as well.
At the top of her remarks at Monday’s briefing, Psaki touted reports from economists who have outlined what the American Rescue Plan could do to help the economy and also noted that West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice, a Republican, said that “he agrees going big with this is critical.”
Here’s a look at the key differences between Biden’s proposal and the GOP counterproposal.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the Biden administration hopes to remove temporary fencing around the White House campus when it makes sense from a security standpoint.
“Our goal, the President and the vice president’s goal, is for the Secret Service to adjust the perimeter as soon as it makes sense from an overall security standpoint,” Psaki said during Monday’s press briefing. “So, we’re working closely with them on that and they, of course, would be in the lead on that.”
Psaki was previously asked on Friday whether President Biden would order the removal of the temporary fencing — which has prevented visitors and tourists from coming near the White House.
She said at the time, “Well, I think we’d all like that, including members of my family and people in Washington.”
Ahead of consideration on the House floor this Wednesday, House GOP Whip Steve Scalise is pressuring his members to oppose the Democrats’ budget resolution.
The budget resolution is a non-binding blueprint and it’s expected to instruct key committees to draft reconciliation legislation that Democrats may use to advance President Biden’s Covid-19 relief package.
Biden meanwhile is meeting with 10 GOP Senators this afternoon at the White House to discuss their counterproposal.
The President outlined a $1.9 trillion package last month that included a wide range of immediate assistance for struggling families, such as $1,400 stimulus checks and extended unemployment, nutrition and eviction aid, and longer-term changes, such as a $15 hourly minimum wage.
But the measure immediately ran into resistance from Republicans on Capitol Hill. In response, a group of 10 senators on Sunday released their own roughly $618 billion relief proposal – less than one-third the size of the President’s. They provided a chart detailing the cost of their plan on Monday morning.
Here are some of the key differences:
- Biden’s plan plan calls for sending another $1,400 per person to eligible recipients. This money would be in addition to the $600 payments that were approved by Congress in December – for a total of $2,000.
- GOP senators want to send $1,000 checks, per adult, but target them to those with lower incomes. The amount would begin phasing out at $40,000 for individuals and $80,000 for couples filing jointly. The upper cap would be $50,000 for individuals and $100,000 for couples. Dependent adults and children would receive $500.
- Biden’s plan would increase the federal boost the jobless receive to $400 a week, from the $300 weekly enhancement contained in Congress’ relief package from December. He would also extend the payments, along with two key pandemic unemployment programs, through September.
- The GOP proposal would extend the $300 a week benefit through June 30. It would also provide $2 billion to states to improve their technology.
Covid-19 vaccines, testing and tracing:
- The President’s plan calls for investing $20 billion in a national vaccination program, including launching community vaccination centers around the country and mobile units in hard-to-reach areas. Biden would also increase federal support to vaccinate Medicaid enrollees. The proposal would also invest $50 billion in testing, providing funds to purchase rapid tests, expand lab capacity and help schools implement regular testing to support reopening. It would also fund the hiring of 100,000 public health workers, nearly tripling the community health workforce.
- The Republicans’ proposal calls for providing the same amount to battle the pandemic. It would fund a National Vaccine Program, expansion of testing, a disaster relief fund and personal protective equipment for first responders, independent physician offices and dentists. It would also provide $15 billion to replenish the National Strategic Stockpile and inject $35 billion to the provider relief fund, which reimburses hospitals and health care providers for coronavirus-related expenses and revenue losses.
- The President would provide an additional $170 billion to K-12 schools, colleges and universities to help them reopen and operate safely or to facilitate remote learning. Congress approved $82 billion in aid for schools in December.
- The Republicans would provide $20 billion for getting K-12 students back to school.
The White House is taking steps to minimize the possibility of Covid-19 exposures for staff with a number of measures designed to limit in-person interactions.
Like the Trump White House, anyone in close proximity of the President is tested every day.
But, as CNN has reported, approximately 70% of the 500 White House staff who joined the Biden administration are still primarily working from home. For those who are on campus, there are guidelines.
“We ask that everyone on campus limit interactions as much as possible in order to minimize the possibility of being in close contact with someone who is positive,” a White House official said, noting that the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines a close contact as “being within 6 feet of an infected person for a cumulative total of 15 minutes over the course of 24 hours.”
All staffers at the White House are wearing masks – and those directly interacting with the President are wearing N95s or KN95 masks. CNN has observed some staffers wearing cloth masks in their own workspaces.
There are “limited capacities” in offices, conference rooms, and elevators to ensure social distancing, the official said.
Further cutting down on some of the comings and goings, staff who do not work in the West Wing or East Wing are “asked not to visit the West Wing or East Wing unless they have a distinct need or are requested to be in a meeting with a principal,” per the official.
Additionally, outside visitors are limited to those with a distinct need to be on campus, such as classified meetings that cannot occur virtually, physical repair work, or a direct request of a principal, the official said.
President Biden is open to some negotiation on his $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief package, a senior administration official told CNN, but the $600 billion counterproposal announced by some Republican senators Sunday is “not going to scratch the itch.”
The White House is specifically open to considering scaling down stimulus checks for families making more than $150,000 per year, the official said, but the administration is not considering cutting off months of unemployment insurance access or money going to schools.
The official told CNN that if the Republican counterproposal moved forward, lawmakers would have to return to negotiating again in two months, which could happen in an even harsher political landscape. The official said that while the Biden administration is open to their relief package being smaller than $1.9 trillion, they’re not considering a $600 billion plan.
The Republican relief package represents the most significant response yet to the White House’s planned package, though with a price tag more than a trillion dollars less than the Democratic plan, the GOP proposal will likely face opposition from congressional Democrats.
The counterproposal includes a total of $160 billion for vaccine development and distribution, testing and tracing, and treatment and supplies, including the production and deployment of personal protective equipment. It also includes a new round of direct payments for “families who need assistance the most,” extends enhanced federal unemployment benefits at the current level and provides $4 billion to bolster behavioral health and substance abuse.
But Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told the New York Daily News Sunday that the Republican proposal is insufficient, stating that Republicans should, “negotiate with us, not make a take-it-or-leave-it offer.”
And Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders said earlier Sunday that he thinks there are enough Democratic votes to pass Biden’s Covid-19 relief package through a process known as reconciliation, which requires only a simple majority.
Biden has said he’s not against reconciliation, but the official said Sunday the White House wants to, “give a place for Republicans, but they’re not going to be snookered.”
The relief package deliberations stand as an early test of Biden’s stated commitment to reaching across the aisle during his time as president. In his inaugural address earlier this month, the President called for bipartisanship and unity.
As of Sunday evening, decisions about next steps hadn’t been made about meeting with either party.