Joe Biden’s administration took its first steps to revive the declining US economy, but warned the measures were “not a substitute” for another major stimulus package because they increased pressure on Congress. for him to pass a $ 1.9 billion Covid relief bill.
The US president was due to sign two executive orders on Friday to expand access to food stamps and unemployment benefits, while beginning a process to introduce a mandatory minimum wage of $ 15 an hour for federal contractors.
While the measures are a signal of intent on the president’s part, they underscore how his ability to stimulate the economy depends on securing the support of a divided Congress for his stimulus bill.
Brian Deese, the new director of the National Economic Council, said: “I want to be very clear: these actions do not replace complete legislative relief, but they will provide a vital lifeline for millions of families.”
At a press conference on Friday, Deese warned the United States risked an “even more serious” economic crisis unless it approves the $ 1.9 billion relief plan, which The administration hopes to follow with even more budget support. He said he would meet with a group of senators to discuss the legislation on Sunday.
The Biden administration has made the back-up plan a top priority for its first week in office. It includes more direct checks to individuals, aid to cash-strapped states and an extension of jobless benefits.
But the stimulus plan is facing significant obstacles in the Senate, where many lawmakers, especially Republicans, are skeptical of the need for additional budget support. Another complicating factor is that the upper house of Congress is likely to be consumed by Donald Trump impeachment trial, which means Mr. Biden’s team may struggle to get a big package approved quickly.
“We’re not going to get Republican votes for anything in this price bracket,” said John Thune, the Republican senator from South Dakota and a member of his party’s leadership. “It’s not targeted and we’ve always said we want something. . . targeted, we want to be fiscally responsible and we will continue to maintain it.
Executive actions Mr Biden planned would expand access to food stamps and allow workers who left their jobs for health and safety reasons to receive unemployment benefits.
The Democratic president also decided to start working on an executive order that would require federal contractors to pay a minimum wage of $ 15 an hour, along with emergency paid time off, heralding a big battle with Republicans and some groups. companies to pay low wages.
Mr. Biden had previously lobbied for a global minimum wage of $ 15 an hour in his $ 1.9 billion stimulus, and it was a key part of his campaign. But given the slim chances he’ll be able to get it into law, he’s trying to take as many steps as possible to raise wages without congressional approval.
In addition to laying the groundwork for a $ 15 minimum wage to be applied to federal contractors, Mr. Biden will also ask government agencies to verify which of their workers are making less than $ 15 an hour and come up with solutions to increase it. their salary.
The US federal minimum wage has been stuck at $ 7.25 an hour since 2009, although many states and cities have gradually raised their own minimums.
Even as Mr. Trump won Florida in the 2020 presidential election, the Republican-ruled state approved a voting initiative gradually raising its own minimum wage to $ 15 an hour – a measure that had garnered broad bipartisan support.
Republican lawmakers in Washington are resisting the president on the issue. “Mandating a federal minimum wage of $ 15 would wipe out small businesses hanging on a wire,” Chuck Grassley, the Iowa Republican said Friday.
“This would reduce business income already incurred, forcing local retailers and restaurants to stop hiring and forget about reopening or expanding a small business,” he added.