Biden, top Democrats demand a new economic relief bill before end of year
Republicans f latly reject proposal; no talks are in works
WASHINGTON — Congressional Democratic leaders accused Republicans on Thursday of refusing to confront the dramatically worsening coronavirus pandemic and instead acquiescing to President Donald Trump’s insistence that he won last week’s presidential election.
Republicans dismissed the attacks and Trump didn’t weigh in at all. As Washington has become paralyzed over the past 10 days, 1 million new people have tested positive for the virus as death numbers are climbing rapidly.
President-elect Joe Biden joined congressional Democratic leaders on Thursday and demanded a new economic relief package to address the pandemic before the end of the year.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., flatly rejected such a proposal, while Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, implored both sides to begin negotiating as the virus appeared to be sending a new shudder through the
Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell on Thursday said Congress needs to provide more economic relief to help sustain growth, though he didn’t endorse any specific proposal.
“The path forward is going to be challenging for a number of reasons,” he said, speaking on a virtual panel hosted by the European Central Bank. “My sense is that we will need to do more and that Congress may need to do more as well.”
And Trump’s reaction to the election seemed likely to stall the federal response even more, depriving Biden and his team of some of the resources they could use to put a quick response in place.
Democrats have pushed for a stimulus package that would exceed $2 trillion since this summer, and before the election Trump said he would support something even more substantial. The president tweeted incessantly about the need for a giant economic relief bill before the Nov. 3 election but he has been silent on the matter since.
Biden discussed the matter Thursday on a phone call with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. In a joint readout after the call, the Democrats said they had talked about “the urgent need for the Congress to come together in the lame-duck session on a bipartisan basis to pass a bill that provides resources to fight the COVID-19 pandemic,” including relief for families and businesses and support for state and local governments.
At a separate news conference, Pelosi and Schumer insisted that Biden’s election win constitutes a mandate for their demands for an enormous new relief bill, particularly given how coronavirus case numbers are skyrocketing.
The economy contracted sharply earlier this year when the coronavirus struck the United States, particularly in
“My sense is that we will need to do more and that Congress may
need to do more as well.”
March and April. It has partially recovered, though millions of Americans remain unemployed. But this new spike in cases and deaths has caught Washington mostly flat-footed.
Trump has not acknowledged the recent surge in cases on his Twitter feed, which is his primary method of communicating.
Democrats have called for a wide-ranging bill that would extend new unemployment benefits, send another round of $1,200 checks to American households, provide more small business aid, money for states and cities, and expand access to testing, among other things.
The election has not changed the GOP’s views on economic relief. Congressional Republicans have long rejected a relief bill along the lines of the $2 trillion package Pelosi and Schumer are seeking.
Instead, McConnell has said that third-quarter economic news showing the unemployment rate has dropped makes a case for a smaller relief package.
In response to Pelosi and Schumer’s remarks, McConnell on Thursday rejected their call for a big economic relief bill.
“My view is the level at which the economy is improving further underscores that we need to do something at about the amount that we put on the floor in September and October,” he said, referring to a roughly $500 billion package Democrats blocked. “I gather [Pelosi and Schumer] are looking at something dramatically larger. That’s not a place I think we’re wiling to go. But I do think there needs to be another package.”
Behind the scenes, no negotiations are happening, according to aides in both parties. That means it’s highly unlikely that an economic relief deal will come together during the lame-duck session, and it would become the first order of business for Biden once he takes office on Jan. 20.
Congress has not acted to provide any relief since approving $3 trillion in aid in the spring.
Congress is confronting a Dec. 11 deadline when government funding will expire, and lawmakers are at work on a spending package to forestall a government shutdown. Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby, R-Ala., said Thursday he would like to see some COVID-19 relief measures attached to the spending bill but that seems unlikely if Republicans and Democrats remain far apart.
“As far as the big package for everything like that Democrats were doing over in the House, that’s not going anywhere,” Shelby said.