Biden Hosts Dimon Among CEOs as Democrats Speed Their Aid Bill

President Joe Biden met with leading chief executives including JPMorgan Chase’s Jamie Dimon and Walmart Inc.’s Doug McMillon to boost support for the $1.9 trillion virus relief plan he’s trying to push through Congress.

Gap Inc. CEO Sonia Syngal and Lowe’s Cos. CEO Marvin Ellison also attended the Oval Office meeting Tuesday afternoon. Biden said the group would discuss the state of the economy and his rescue plan, which would raise the minimum wage, plus a forthcoming push to rebuild the nation’s roads and bridges.

“There’s a whole range of issues, but I think they’re all solvable,” Biden told reporters. “I’m anxious to hear what these business leaders have to say about what they think about how we’re approaching this issue and to see if we can find some common ground.”

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Vice President Kamala Harris were also present, along with Tom Donohue, CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Endorsements from major U.S. business leaders could help Biden garner Republican support for his stimulus, though the White House has indicated it is prepared to pass the bill through Congress with only Democratic votes. Congressional Democratic leaders have laid groundwork to move the legislation using a procedure that would require only simple majority support in the Senate, rather than the 60 votes normally needed to end a filibuster.

Biden and the business leaders discussed the economic pain still faced by many Americans and how to ensure an equitable recovery, according to a person briefed on the more than 90-minute meeting.

The corporate leaders shared some of their business practices with Biden and his team, such as how they administer benefits for lower-paid workers, the person said. None of the CEOs were asked to support any specific policy, the person said.

“We had a constructive and detailed conversation that covered a lot of ground – the urgent struggles of so many Americans, a path to a sustainable and equitable economic recovery, and the future of American competitiveness,” Dimon said in a statement. “I appreciated the opportunity to discuss these serious issues today, and look forward to working with Republicans and Democrats to build an economy that is stronger, more resilient, and more inclusive.”

The leaders also discussed the pandemic and its effect on minorities and women, according to a statement from Gap.

Syngal “emphasized a shared and urgent concern for the ways Covid has disproportionately impacted select communities, as more than half of U.S. jobs lost during Covid were held by women -- the majority of whom are Black and Latinx,” Gap spokeswoman Debbie Felix said.

The Chamber of Commerce, one of the most powerful lobbying groups in Washington, has traditionally aligned itself with the GOP, but pivoted last year to begin working more with Democrats after clashing with the Trump administration over its protectionist trade measures. McMillon is also chairman of the Business Roundtable, another influential lobby in Washington.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki suggested Biden wouldn’t specifically ask the leaders to officially throw their support behind the plan, instead casting the meeting as a chance for the president to lay out the specifics of his proposal and get feedback.

The biggest U.S. banks, including JPMorgan, have recently faced complaints that their scaling back of consumer lending has hurt businesses and households still struggling in the pandemic-battered economy. Psaki indicated Biden would not raise those issues with Dimon or other executives and instead would keep the discussion focused on his stimulus plan.

“The president does not have a litmus test that he gives people before he meets with them in the Oval Office,” Psaki said. “They don’t agree with him on everything. I’m sure the business leaders would convey that to you. He doesn’t agree with them on everything.”

Biden kicked off talks last week at the White House, where he met with a group of Republican senators who proposed a stimulus one-third the size of his plan. While both sides spoke optimistically about working together, Biden has since said he is not interested in scaling back his proposal. Liberal Democrats and progressive groups have pressured Biden not to give in to Republican demands.

The president said he has continued discussions with GOP lawmakers “to see if there’s any way we can follow up beyond where we are.” But he reiterated he does not want to shrink the size of his $1.9 trillion plan.

“I think we’re in a position to think big,” Biden said.

Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, one of the Republicans behind the smaller rescue package, said earlier Tuesday it is “too bad” Biden seems interested in pushing forward without GOP lawmakers’ support.

“I’m discouraged that the current administration seems not to be interested in pursuing the bipartisan solution,” Portman said during a confirmation hearing for Neera Tanden, Biden’s pick to lead the White House budget office. “Good ideas come from both sides of the aisle, as we have found out in the previous five Covid-19 packages that we have passed in this Congress.”

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