Richmond Times-Dispatch

Biden, top Democrats demand a new economic relief bill before end of year

Republican­s f latly reject proposal; no talks are in works

- BY ERICA WERNER The Washington Post Jerome Powell, Fed chairman

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

U.S. economy.

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.

 ?? THE ASSOCIATED PRESS ?? Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., discussed their economic relief plan with Presidente­lect Joe Biden on Thursday.
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., discussed their economic relief plan with Presidente­lect Joe Biden on Thursday.

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