Biden Pitches COVID Relief Proposal to Business Leaders
WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden invited a select group of business leaders to the White House Tuesday afternoon to hear their thoughts and hopefully garner their support for his $1.9 trillion COVID relief plan.
Sitting with his back to the fireplace in the Oval Office under portraits of Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton, Biden was joined by Vice President Kamala Harris and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen.
Between them and the room’s defining feature, the Resolute desk, were JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon, who shared a couch with Yellen, U.S. Chamber of Commerce CEO Tom Donohue, who was seated to Harris’s right, and Marvin Ellison, CEO of Lowe’s, Doug McMillon, CEO of Walmart, and Sonia Syngal, the CEO of the Gap Inc., all of whom sat in winged-back chairs close to the president’s desk.
Everyone wore masks — Yellen wore two — and all maintained their social distance.
In brief remarks to reporters before the meeting began, Biden reiterated the need for his administration to tackle both the coronavirus and the anemic economy.
“We can’t let one wait,” he said. “We can’t get everybody well and then move on the economy. We have to move quickly on both.”
Biden also said he was anxious to hear what the business leaders had to say about how the administration is approaching the issue. His goal, he said, was “to see if we can find some common ground.
“I know I’ve found some common ground with some of my Republican friends and a lot of the Democrats as well, so I’m optimistic,” he said.
In addition to the recovery package, the president said he also wanted to talk to the business leaders about infrastructure and about raising the minimum wage.
“As I’ve said before — you’ve heard me say it to labor groups and others as well — the American people are hurting,” Biden said. “There’s a lot of people who are in real, real trouble. A lot of people going to bed at night, staring at the ceiling wondering whether they’re going to be in that apartment the next day, or if they’re going to be evicted, or if they’re going to keep their mortgage payment up, if they’re going to have any health insurance. We’ve got millions of people unemployed … There’s a whole range of issues, but I think they’re all soluble. I think they’re all within our capacity.”
Later, Biden spoke of his ongoing talks with congressional Republicans.
“I’ve been exchanging correspondence with them and telephone calls, as well, to see if there’s any way we can follow up beyond where we are, and I’ve been meeting with the members of the House and the Senate as well,” he said.
“I think we’re in a position to think big and move big…”