With the latest jobs report delivering fresh evidence of economic dislocation, President Biden is expected to use the limited job gains to make a case for the urgency of his $1.9 trillion stimulus plan when he addresses the nation’s economy on Friday.
In a significant step toward infusing funds into the pandemic-battered economy, the Senate passed a resolution before dawn on Friday that mostly mirrors Mr. Biden’s proposed stimulus package.
During a morning meeting in the Oval Office with Ms. Harris and House Democratic leaders and committee leaders who are helping to put together the stimulus legislation, the president said that the risk is doing too little to boost the economy.
“People are really — I don’t have to tell any of you — they’re really hurting,” Mr. Biden said.
New data from the Labor Department — the first to come during the Biden administration — presented a weak showing of only 49,000 jobs added in January and an unemployment rate that fell to 6.3 percent. The small gains followed December’s setback when the economy shed jobs for the first time since April. December’s loss, originally stated at 140,000, was revised on Friday to 227,000.
The release of the monthly jobs report capped a week in which Democrats continued to move ahead with plans to enact another far-reaching stimulus plan, the first major legislative undertaking of Mr. Biden’s presidency. The latest report is certain to affect the debate in Washington over further federal intervention.
After a 15-hour overnight voting session, the Senate advanced its version of the $1.9 trillion plan without any Republican support. Vice President Kamala Harris had to cast the tiebreaking vote, the first of what is likely to be many in the evenly divided Senate.
The blueprint advanced by the Senate largely reflects Mr. Biden’s $1.9 trillion proposal, but without a measure that would raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.
Lawmakers also left in Mr. Biden’s plan to send as much as $1,400 in direct checks to Americans. But Democrats and the administration are discussing phasing them out for higher-income Americans at a faster rate than the $600 payments that Congress approved in December, meaning that those earning more would get smaller checks.
Mr. Biden has proposed starting to phase out the payments for individuals earning $75,000 a year and couples earning $150,000 a year. Lawmakers have discussed reducing those thresholds to $50,000 for individuals and $100,000 for couples.
A group of Senate Republicans pitched a scaled-down relief package this week, but their $618 billion plan fell far short of what Mr. Biden is seeking.
The Labor Department’s report on Friday that the economy added 49,000 jobs in January, while unemployment fell to 6.3 percent, is fueling a push by President Biden and congressional Democrats to pass a $1.9 trillion aid package as soon as this month.
The report showed the economy remains 10 million jobs below its pre-pandemic levels, with sluggish job growth outside of government: The private sector added only 6,000 jobs on net for the month. Revisions to November and December’s jobs data also showed the job market was struggling even more than previously known in the late fall and early winter.
Even the government gains, which were entirely concentrated in state and local education hiring, could be illusory. The department warned in its report that education layoffs caused by the pandemic last year “distorted the normal seasonal buildup and layoff patterns” in education, and possibly made January’s hiring numbers look better than they actually were.
Mr. Biden lamented the jobs numbers before a meeting with House Democrats in the White House to discuss the aid package, saying the 6,000 new private-sector jobs was far too small a figure. “At that rate it’s going to take 10 years before we get to full unemployment.”
“We can’t do too much here, but we can do too little,” he said. “We’ve got a chance to do something big here.”
Mr. Biden, who is set to speak about the economy later on Friday morning, has repeatedly urged Congress to spend aggressively on vaccine deployment, direct aid to individuals and families, expansions of the social safety net and other provisions meant to bring the pandemic to a swifter end and to bridge vulnerable people and businesses to the resumption of normal levels of economic activity.
He and his aides dismissed any sign in the latest report of an economy healing faster than expected and any reason to scale back on plans to provide more help.
The White House Council of Economic Advisers posted a series of messages to Twitter on Friday morning, calling the report “yet another reminder that our economy remains in a hole worse than the depths of the Great Recession and needs additional relief.”
Strong relief is urgently and quickly needed to control the virus, get vaccine shots in arms, and finally launch a robust, equitable, and racially inclusive recovery
— Council of Economic Advisers (@WhiteHouseCEA) February 5, 2021
“Strong relief is urgently and quickly needed,” the council wrote, “to control the virus, get vaccine shots in arms, and finally launch a robust, equitable, and racially inclusive recovery.”
Analysts had been expecting more significant job gains, and they largely called the report a disappointment. “This is not a good start to 2021,” said Nick Bunker, economic research director at the online jobs site Indeed. “Today’s report is essentially the opposite of what we need almost a year into the pandemic.”
Still, some Republicans have argued that the economy is just now starting to reap the benefits of a $900 billion aid package Congress approved in December and that the economy does not need an additional $1.9 trillion jolt. They are likely to point to the drop in the unemployment rate reported on Friday as further evidence that the aid bill should be smaller and more targeted.
Representative Kevin Brady, Republican of Texas, called the jobs report “weak” but said the economy did not need the type of stimulus package that Mr. Biden is proposing.
“Unfortunately, there is little stimulus in the president’s nearly two-trillion dollar ‘stimulus,’” he said. “And unless he begins to work with Republicans in earnest, Americans will suffer tepid job growth as the new normal.”
President Biden thanked congressional Democrats on Friday for pushing through a budget blueprint this week that included his $1.9 trillion stimulus plan, saying they had the opportunity to get something “consequential” done for the country amid a devastating pandemic.
“We’ve got a chance to do something big here,” Mr. Biden told senior House Democrats at the White House, just hours after the Senate endorsed his sweeping pandemic aid package, voting just before sunrise to approve it over unified Republican opposition. The House was expected to give it final approval later Friday.
After a 15-hour voting session that stretched overnight, Vice President Kamala Harris arrived early in the morning to the Senate dais, where she cast her first tiebreaking vote. The Senate adopted the budget measure by a vote of 51 to 50 at about 5:30 a.m.
In the marathon session — known as a vote-a-rama and for which more than 800 amendments were drafted — Senate Democrats maneuvered through a series of politically tricky amendments that Republicans sought to attach to their budget plan.
They also endorsed a number of ideas that could drive negotiations on Mr. Biden’s stimulus measure, embracing a proposal to exclude high earners from direct payments of up to $1,400 — an idea that the president and leading Democrats have already said they are open to — and the creation of a new form of child allowance for low- and middle-income families. Senators also agreed to bar any increase in the federal minimum wage, a centerpiece of Mr. Biden’s plan, during the pandemic.
Despite the amendments, the process left Mr. Biden’s plan largely intact as Democrats moved forward.
“We cannot repeat the mistakes of the past,” said Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader. “We cannot do too little.”
The resolution will go next to the House, where Democrats do not require Republican support to approve it. While the measure does not have the force of law, the action paves the way for the next step in the budget reconciliation process, which ultimately would allow Democrats to advance Mr. Biden’s plan without Republican votes.
In a letter on Friday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi told Democrats that the House would complete work on the package by the end of the month.
“With this budget resolution, we have taken a giant step to save lives and livelihoods,” Ms. Pelosi wrote.
Still, the proposal did not pass the Senate without some setbacks for Democrats. In a potential sign of trouble ahead for a major plank of Mr. Biden’s plan, the Senate agreed to a proposal by Senator Joni Ernst, Republican of Iowa, to prohibit any minimum wage increase during the pandemic.
The measure passed by a voice vote, signaling that Democrats were not attempting to defeat it. Mr. Biden’s stimulus package would increase the wage to $15 per hour by 2025, and Senator Bernie Sanders, independent of Vermont, who has been leading the push for the wage increase in the Senate, said he was not contesting Ms. Ernst’s effort because he had never sought to raise it during the pandemic.
But the vote was a signal that the wage increase could be difficult to pass in an evenly split Senate, where at least one Democrat, Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, is on record opposing it.
“A $15 federal minimum wage would be devastating for our hardest-hit small businesses at a time they can least afford it,” Ms. Ernst said on the Senate floor. “We should not have a one-size-fits-all policy set by Washington politicians.”
More than 200 members of the Obama administration urged Congress on Friday not to shrink its stimulus bill in response to Republicans’ criticism about deficit spending, warning that Democrats risked repeating the same mistake they made 12 years ago, amid the last economic crisis.
The signers of the open letter argue that the decision by the Democratic-led Congress in 2009 to pass a stimulus of $787 billion, less than what some economists at the time said was needed, unnecessarily prolonged the Great Recession.
“The resistance we faced from deficit fearmongers seeking to water it down ate up valuable time and diluted the amount of aid that reached struggling families and small businesses,” the letter says of the 2009 stimulus package. “We know from history that they are wrong and sabotaging the ability of our nation to fully and equitably recover.”
The signers include several members of Mr. Obama’s cabinet, among them Tom Perez, who was labor secretary and later led the Democratic National Committee; Julián Castro, who was secretary of housing and urban development and ran for president last year; and Kathleen Sebelius, who was secretary of health and human services. High-ranking advisers such as Valerie Jarrett, Dan Pfeiffer and John Podesta also signed.
“The lesson that we need to learn from the past is if we have the power to meet the needs of Americans, then we need to do that immediately, whether congressional Republicans agree with it or not,” Mr. Castro said in an interview.
President Biden has proposed a $1.9 trillion package that includes $1,400 stimulus checks for Americans making up to $75,000 a year, a $400-a-week supplement to unemployment benefits through September, aid for state and local governments, and other provisions. Congressional Democrats are advancing it through the budget reconciliation process. With that approach, the bill would be shielded from a filibuster in the Senate and could pass the chamber with only Democratic votes, as a blueprint did early Friday.
Mr. Biden met with Republican senators at the White House this week but described their counterproposal, which would reduce stimulus checks to $1,000 and the total cost of the package to $600 billion, as a nonstarter. He has expressed openness to tightening the income limit to receive a check.
Many Democrats have expressed concern about repeating what they see as the mistakes of 2009, when the party scaled back its stimulus package in an ultimately fruitless pursuit of bipartisan support. Only three Republicans voted for the bill, and the former Obama officials who signed the open letter argue that the economy would have fared better if Democrats had ignored Republicans and passed a larger package on their own.
“Quite frankly, we all had to live the consequences of the Republican intransigence,” Mr. Perez said. “The economic numbers here are dire. They make the Great Recession look like it was a mild recession, which it wasn’t. We can’t afford not to do what the president is proposing.”
Since Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the New York Democrat, took to Instagram Live on Monday to describe what the Jan. 6 riot was like from inside the Capitol complex, critics have claimed that she wasn’t where she said she was, or that she couldn’t have experienced what she described from her location.
These claims are false.
While Ms. Ocasio-Cortez was not in the main, domed Capitol building when the rioters breached it, she never said she was. She accurately described being in the Cannon House Office Building, which is part of the Capitol complex and is connected to the main building by tunnels.
In her livestream, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez recalled hiding in a bathroom and thinking she was going to die as unknown people entered her office and shouted, “Where is she?” They turned out to be Capitol Police officers who had not clearly identified themselves, and Ms. Ocasio-Cortez said so on Instagram. She did not claim that they were rioters — only that, from her hiding spot, she initially thought they were.
During the riot, reporters wrote on Twitter that the Cannon building was being evacuated because of credible threats, and that Capitol Police officers were running through the hallways and entering offices just as Ms. Ocasio-Cortez described.
The false claims about her statements have spread widely online, much of the backlash stemming from an article on the conservative RedState blog and a livestream from the right-wing commentator Steven Crowder. On Thursday, Representative Nancy Mace, Republican of South Carolina, tweeted, “I’m two doors down from @aoc and no insurrectionists stormed our hallway.”
But Ms. Ocasio-Cortez never said insurrectionists had stormed that hallway, and Ms. Mace herself has described being frightened enough to barricade her own door. A spokeswoman for Ms. Mace said on Friday that the congresswoman’s tweet had been intended as “an indictment of the media for reporting there were insurrectionists in our hallway when in fact there were not,” and that it “was not at all directed at Ocasio-Cortez.”
“As the Capitol complex was stormed and people were being killed, none of us knew in the moment what areas were compromised,” Ms. Ocasio-Cortez tweeted in response to Ms. Mace’s post. (A spokeswoman for Ms. Ocasio-Cortez said the lawmaker had no additional comment.)
Others have corroborated Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s account and confirmed that the Cannon building was threatened, even though the rioters did not ultimately breach it.
Ari Rabin-Havt, a deputy manager for Senator Bernie Sanders’s 2020 presidential campaign, tweeted that he was in the Capitol tunnels during the attack. As Mr. Rabin-Havt moved toward the Cannon building, he wrote, members of a SWAT team yelled at him to find a hiding place.
And Representative Katie Porter, Democrat of California, said on MSNBC that after the Cannon building was evacuated, she and Ms. Ocasio-Cortez sheltered in Ms. Porter’s office in another building. She said Ms. Ocasio-Cortez was clearly terrified, opening closets to try to find hiding places and wishing aloud that she had worn flats instead of heels in case she had to run.
Jacob Silver contributed reporting.
The American public has given President Biden favorable reviews since he took office last month, and the policies that he is hurrying to put in place appear broadly popular, according to polls.
And notably, as he signs a wave of executive actions and pushes a major $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill, Mr. Biden is facing muted opposition from Republicans so far — a reflection of the party’s weakened position as it juggles two increasingly divided factions.
This intraparty division gives Mr. Biden the “upper hand” as he pushes his legislative agenda forward, said Doug Schwartz, the director of polling at Quinnipiac University, which released a nationwide poll on Wednesday. “He’s advocating policies that have solid support in the public, so Republicans are in more of a defensive posture, as they’re opposing popular policies,” Mr. Schwartz said.
The public’s dissatisfaction with the state of affairs in the United States remains high: Roughly seven in 10 said they were unhappy with the way things were going, according to the Quinnipiac poll. But optimism is on the rise, and many are attaching their hopes to the new president. When asked about the coming four years under Mr. Biden, 61 percent of Americans described themselves as optimistic.
In a Monmouth University poll released last week, 42 percent of Americans said the country was headed in the right direction — considerably less than half, but still more than in any Monmouth poll going back to 2013.
The Quinnipiac survey found that more than two-thirds of Americans supported Mr. Biden’s coronavirus relief package, with wide majorities also backing certain key elements — including a permanent increase to a $15 minimum wage and a round of $1,400 stimulus checks to individuals. On the question of the stimulus payments, even 64 percent of Republicans supported them.
On a range of other Biden policies, the poll found widespread support: rejoining the Paris climate accord, opening a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and ending Mr. Trump’s ban on travel from some predominantly Muslim countries.