Over 150 top business executives urge Congress to back Biden recovery bill

More than 150 of America’s top business leaders voiced their support for President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion pandemic recovery plan Wednesday, urging Congress in a letter to pass the bill.

“We write to urge immediate and large-scale federal legislation to address the health and economic crises brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic,” the executives wrote. “Congress should act swiftly and on a bipartisan basis to authorize a stimulus and relief package along the lines of the Biden-Harris administration’s proposed American Rescue Plan.”

The letter was signed by senior executives across all walks of business, including airlines, banking, entertainment, health, utilities and technology.

The business leaders who signed the memo included the CEOs of AT&T, Blackstone, Comcast (the parent company of NBCUniversal), Corcoran, Goldman Sachs, Google, Saks Fifth Avenue, Siemens, T-Mobile, and United Airlines.

“More than 10 million fewer Americans are working today than when the pandemic began, small businesses across the country are facing bankruptcy, and schools are struggling to reopen,” the letter continued. “The American Rescue Plan provides a framework for coordinated public-private efforts to overcome Covid-19 and to move forward with a new era of inclusive growth.”

The bill includes $20 billion for vaccinations, $50 billion for testing and $350 billion for state and local relief.

It also allows for $1,400 direct stimulus payments, a $400 per week additional jobless benefit, and an extension to programs that increased the eligibility of millions of Americans for unemployment insurance.

The bill provides for increasing the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 per hour by 2025, a provision that has drawn particular ire from some Republicans.

Speedy passage is assured when it goes to a vote in Congress this Friday, but getting it through the 50-50 divided Senate is in question. Without bipartisan support, Democrats may have to use a budget reconciliation process, which only requires a simple majority.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky, has said he objects to the bill’s targeting and costs, and resists raising the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour.

“Democrats’ so-called relief bill includesSen. Sanders’ minimum wage proposal that would kill 1.4 million American jobs,” McConnell said earlier this month. “This, after the president killed many thousands of jobs with Keystone XL [pipeline project]. Killing jobs and destroying opportunity — that’s their idea of pandemic relief?”

Biden’s top economic adviser, Brian Deese, who is head of the National Economic Council, told NBC News it was critical to pass the bill, which he said includes recovery ideas from all sides of the political spectrum.

“This is an urgently needed piece of legislation,” he said Wednesday. The country must “move fast and with the kind of speed and size we need to finally, finally get out of this economic crisis and put us on a positive trajectory,” Deese said.

Deese said the letter from business leaders was an “important signal again of the kind of breadth of support we’re seeing for this rescue.”

A recent Quinnipiac poll found that 68 percent of Americans support the recovery package, but only a slim majority of Republicans do, just 53 percent.

Nearly 10 million Americans are still without work since the beginning of the pandemic. The number of individuals unemployed is very likely higher due to people dropping out of looking for work as they take care of their families, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said Tuesday. Yellen and Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell have both said the real unemployment rate is closer to 10 percent than the headline rate of 6.3 percent.

The administration said it remains “optimistic” that the recovery package will be passed without major compromises due to the severity of the situation and broad national support for the effort.

“Even for those who have done relatively well in this crisis, they recognize that this crisis is affecting everybody. It’s affecting our communities, it’s affecting our health workers. We talk about the K-shaped nature of this crisis a lot, but I think that understates the pain and anxiety and fear and the human suffering that exists on the bottom end of that K,” Deese said.

“When we talk about 30 million Americans who last week reported that they didn’t have enough food to eat, this is a unique crisis,” he added. “It may not be that we find that kind of connectivity across Washington, but I think we are seeing that among the American people.”

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