President-elect Joe Biden on Monday called on Congress to quickly pass a major coronavirus-relief bill along the lines of the $3.4 trillion HEROES Act passed by the Democratic-led House in May.
“We’re going into a very dark winter. Things are going to get much tougher before they get easier. That requires sparing no effort to fight Covid,” Biden said.
Biden he emphasized the need to provide more help to state and local governments facing a budget crunch as a result of the pandemic. That aid has been a major sticking point in negotiations on another stimulus package, with President Trump and other Republicans objecting to what they describe as bailing out badly run Democratic states.
“There’s a reason why the federal government is able to run a deficit, because the states must, must balance their budgets, and they’re in real trouble,” he said. “You’re going to see hundreds of thousands of police officers, firefighters, first responders, mental health clinics – you’re going to see them going out of business. Right now, Congress should come together and pass a Covid-relief package like the HEROES Act that the House passed six months ago. Once we shut down the virus and deliver economic relief to workers and businesses, then we can start to build back better than before.”
Biden’s newly appointed chief of staff, Ron Klain, told NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday that the president-elect wants a relief package during the lame-duck session of Congress that begins this week. “We need action during the lame-duck. There are a lot of things that are going to have to wait until Joe Biden is president,” Klain said. “This is not one of them.”
Trump calls for ‘big and focused’ stimulus: Trump on Saturday called on Congress to pass another stimulus bill, but whereas before the election he had urged lawmakers to “go big” on a relief deal — at times suggesting that he would support a package larger than the $2-plus trillion Democrats wanted — his weekend tweet seemed to combine Democrats’ calls for a big bill with the GOP’s desire for more “targeted” relief.
"Congress must now do a Covid Relief Bill," Trump wrote on Twitter. "Needs Democrats support. Make it big and focused. Get it done!"
Biden on Monday criticized Trump for not doing more about the crisis. “The idea that the president is still playing golf and not doing anything about it is beyond my comprehension. You’d at least think he’d want to go off on a positive note." The president-elect also called on Republicans senators who might object to any additional coronavirus relief package to “stand up and save lives and jobs now.”
What it all means: Republicans and Democrats are still sharply divided over a relief package, and lawmakers are also dealing with a December 11 deadline to pass another bill to fund the government and avert a shutdown. Biden’s call for a major stimulus aren’t likely to get Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) or other GOP members to suddenly drop their objections to spending another $2 trillion or more on an aid bill.
“The mostly likely outcome is another stopgap spending bill, perhaps into late February or early March, with some limited bipartisan COVID-19 aid attached. That’s the view of Capitol Hill officials in both parties and other legislative experts,” Roll Call’s Paul M. Krawzak reported Monday morning, before Biden’s speech.