Biden urges passage of $3 trillion coronavirus relief bill

Prominent Republicans who have broken with Trump to congratulate Biden

President-elect Joe Biden urged Congress on Monday to pass another round of coronavirus relief.

In an afternoon press conference, Biden referenced the coronavirus relief bill passed by the Democratic-controlled House earlier this year. It would provide $3 trillion in relief for state and local governments, direct cash payments to individuals, assistance for renters and more.

It was not taken up in the Republican-controlled Senate. Negotiations on a relief package between Congress and the White House stalled before the election.

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Biden said both tackling the virus and delivering economic relief are keys to start rebuilding the nation’s economy. His remarks came after a Monday meeting with business and labor leaders. He said the two groups were “singing from the same hymnal.”

Biden has vowed to spend trillions of dollars to reinvigorate U.S. manufacturing, expand health care coverage and combat climate change, among other priorities. But his chief priority remains controlling the pandemic, which is surging to record levels and forcing state and local leaders to implement new rounds of restrictions on local businesses.

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Biden continues warning of dire consequences if President Donald Trump and his administration continue to refuse to coordinate with his transition team on the coronavirus pandemic and block briefings on national security, policy issues and vaccine plans.

“More people may die if we don’t coordinate,” Biden said Monday. The remarks marked Biden’s toughest to date on Trump’s failure to acknowledge his election loss and cooperate with the incoming administration for a peaceful transfer of power.

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Biden and his aides — and a small but growing group of Republicans — have emphasized the importance of being briefed on White House efforts to control the pandemic and distribute prospective vaccines. The Trump administration is working on its own distribution plan, while Biden’s chief of staff indicated his transition team will proceed with their own planning separately because of the obstruction.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said it’s “absolutely crucial that the apparent president-elect and his team have full access to the planning that has gone on” for vaccine distribution.

“It is no easy matter” to distribute a vaccine, Collins said, so “it’s absolutely imperative for public health, that all of the planning that’s gone on for which the current administration deserves credit, be shared with the new administration.”

Collins' remarks were echoed Monday by Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. Last week, a larger group of Republicans in Congress called on the Trump administration to allow Biden to begin receiving national security briefings.

The outgoing president has refused so far to bend to pressure from Democrats or Republicans as he continues to dispute his loss to Biden, who has surpassed the 270 electoral vote threshold to become president and is leading Trump by more than 5.5 million votes nationally.

Cooperation between the outgoing and incoming administrations, traditionally a key component to the peaceful transfer of power in the United States, takes on heightened significance this year because of the coronavirus pandemic, which is escalating dramatically heading into the holiday season.

Biden called the vaccine distribution a “huge, huge undertaking,” and said that if his team has to wait until he takes office to dig into the government’s distribution plan, they’ll be “behind, over a month, month and a half.”

Before taking questions, Biden outlined his plans to alleviate inequality and boost the U.S. economy but said that any structural reforms depended first on reining in the pandemic and delivering more immediate relief.

“Once we shut down the virus and deliver economic relief to workers and businesses, then we can start to build back better than before,” he said.

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