Biden and Yellen to meet with CEOs of JPMorgan, Walmart, Gap to talk stimulus

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President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris meet with Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, U.S., January 29, 2021.
Kevin Lemarque | Reuters

President Joe Biden will on Tuesday meet with the chief executives of some of the country’s largest business in the Oval Office to discuss his $1.9 trillion stimulus plan and the outlook for the American economy.

Among those expected to meet with Biden and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen are JPMorgan‘s Jamie Dimon, Walmart’s Doug McMillon, Gap‘s Sonia Syngal, Lowe’s Marvin Ellison and Tom Donohue of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Though the exact agenda of the afternoon meeting wasn’t immediately available, the White House said that the group will review the “critical need” for Biden’s massive rescue plan that’s currently making its way through Congress.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for a meeting agenda.

Still, the star-studded cast of American industry is likely to press the White House on its plans on making more Covid-19 vaccines available for workers, the size, scope and importance of another round of stimulus checks, and how a $15 minimum wage would impact payrolls.

The meeting comes as congressional Democrats move to pass Biden’s American Rescue Plan using a budget tool known as reconciliation that would allow the party to muscle the big-ticket plan through Capitol Hill without support from the GOP.

Though the Biden administration for weeks voiced optimism that his plan could pass on a bipartisan basis with the 60 votes required with reconciliation, Republican pushback over the size of the bill appears to have ended prospects for an agreeable solution.

“The president – his first priority is getting relief to the American people,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday. “Again, I don’t think the American people are particularly worried about how the direct relief gets into their hands. If [reconciliation] is the process it moves forward through, which seems likely at this point, the president would certainly support that.”

Meanwhile, senior House Democrats on Monday evening proposed sending the $1,400 stimulus payments to individual Americans with up to $75,000 in annual income. That move rejected an earlier appeal to tailor the benefits to those with lower earnings, which conservative Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia supported.

For her part, Yellen has stressed the importance of acting quickly to flush the U.S. economy with even more fiscal support even after the $900 billion bill Congress passed in December. Without it, the labor market recovery could take years instead of a complete recovery by next year, she said over the weekend.

Though the U.S. economy rebounded sharply in summer 2020, that progress has plateaued if not partially reversed this winter as the hospitality, travel and food-service industries continue to struggle under the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

The January 2021 jobs report, published on Friday, showed that employers added only 49,000 jobs last month. The unemployment rate, which fell to 6.3% from 6.7%, came as more people gave up on their job searches.

Long-term unemployment also was little changed at 4 million, while those without work for less than five weeks fell to 2.3 million.

Sen. Bernie Sander, independent of Vermont, told CNN over the weekend that he supports a “strong cliff” for payments so that checks are not allocated to high-income households, but cautioned against cutting out too many families.

“That’s what I support, that’s what I think most people understand,” Sanders said of making the payments phase out more quickly. “But to say to a worker in Vermont or California or any place else, that if you’re making, you know, $52,000 a year, you are too rich to get this help, the full benefit, I think that that’s absurd.”

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