Bi­den calls for virus re­lief pack­age

San Francisco Chronicle Late Edition - - NATION - By Steve Peo­ples Steve Peo­ples is an As­so­ci­ated Press writer.

WILM­ING­TON, Del. — Pres­i­den­t­elect Joe Bi­den is push­ing Congress to ap­prove bil­lions of dol­lars in emer­gency COVID19 as­sis­tance be­fore he takes of­fice, say­ing in a meet­ing Fri­day with the top Democrats in the House and Se­nate that such a pack­age should be ap­proved dur­ing the lame­duck ses­sion.

Bi­den held his first in­per­son meet­ing since win­ning the elec­tion with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Se­nate Demo­cratic leader Chuck Schumer. The in­com­ing Demo­cratic pres­i­dent hosted them on Fri­day at his tran­si­tion head­quar­ters in Wilm­ing­ton, Del.

Bi­den sat with Schumer, Pelosi and Vice Pres­i­den­t­elect Ka­mala Har­ris, all wear­ing masks and spaced out around a bank of ta­bles.

“In my Oval Of­fice, mi casa, you casa,” Bi­den said dur­ing the brief por­tion of the meet­ing that jour­nal­ists were al­lowed to see. “I hope we’re go­ing to spend a lot of time to­gether.”

Pelosi said at an ear­lier news con­fer­ence that she and Schumer would be talk­ing with Bi­den about “the ur­gency of crush­ing the virus,” as well as how to use the lame­duck ses­sion of Congress, leg­is­la­tion on keep­ing the gov­ern­ment funded and COVID19 re­lief.

Prospects for new virus aid this year re­main un­cer­tain. Pelosi said talks with Se­nate

Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch Mc­Connell and GOP lead­er­ship on Thurs­day did not pro­duce any con­sen­sus on a new virus aid pack­age.

But on Fri­day, Mc­Connell, a Ken­tucky Repub­li­can, pro­posed that Congress shift $ 455 bil­lion of un­spent small­busi­ness lend­ing funds to­ward a new COVID19 aid pack­age. His of­fer came af­ter a meet­ing with Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Steven Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Mead­ows.

Bi­den’s new gov­ern­ing team is fac­ing in­tense pres­sure to ap­prove another COVID19 re­lief bill and come up with a clear plan to dis­trib­ute mil­lions of doses of a prospectiv­e vac­cine, even as Bi­den is just days away from un­veil­ing the first of his Cab­i­net picks, which are sub­ject to Se­nate con­fir­ma­tion.

The sense of ur­gency in the meet­ing was echoed in com­ments ear­lier Fri­day by Bi­den tran­si­tion aide Jen Psaki, who warned that “there’s no more room for de­lay.“

Psaki said that Bi­den, Pelosi and Schumer are al­ready work­ing to­gether to push for a pan­demic re­lief bill be­fore Congress ad­journs for the year.

“They’re in lock­step agree­ment that there needs to be emer­gency as­sis­tance and aid dur­ing the lame­duck ses­sion to help fam­i­lies, to help small busi­nesses,” Psaki said.

Alex Bran­don / As­so­ci­ated Press

Pres­i­den­t­elect Joe Bi­den ar­rives for meet­ings at his tran­si­tion head­quar­ters in Wilm­ing­ton, Del.

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