WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) – President-elect Joe Biden urges Congress to approve billions of dollars in emergency aid for COVID-19 before taking office, saying at a meeting Friday with top Democrats in the House and Senate that such a package should be approved during the session with a lame duck.
Biden held his first personal meeting since winning the presidential election with Parliament Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Party leader Chuck Schumer, receiving them at his makeshift transitional headquarters in downtown Wilmington, Delaware.
“In my oval office, my casa, you casa,” said Biden, who sat with Sumer, Pelosi and newly elected Vice President Kamala Harris, dressed in masks and lying around a bank of tables, during the brief part of the meeting reporters witnessed. “I hope we spend a lot of time together.”
According to testimony released later by Biden’s team, the group “agreed that Congress should adopt a bipartisan emergency package in the lame duck session,” which is the period after election day but before Congress postpones the year.
It added that “the package should include resources to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, relief for working families and small businesses, support for state and local governments trying to keep workers on the front lines, expanded insurance for unemployment and affordable health care for millions of families. “
The sense of urgency of the meeting was reflected in comments earlier Friday by Biden’s transition aide Jen Psaki, who warned that “there is no more room for delay”.
Pelosi said before meeting with Biden and Sumer that he would clarify the “urgency of shredding the virus” and how to use the lame duck session to approve COVID-19 relief and legislation that could support government funding.
But the prospects for new viral aid this year remain uncertain. Pelosi said talks with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the GP leadership on Thursday failed to reach a consensus on the aid package.
“It didn’t happen, but we hope it will,” she said.
Also Friday, McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, proposed to Congress to transfer $ 455 billion in unspent small business loans to a new COVID-19 aid package. His proposal came after a meeting with Finance Minister Stephen Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.
Psaki said Biden, Pelosi and Sumer had already begun working together on COVID-19 relief even before Friday’s meeting.
“They agree that there needs to be emergency help and help during the lame duck session to help families and small businesses,” she said. “There is no more room for delay and we must move forward as quickly as possible.”
Biden, Pelosi, and Sumer also discussed the program for the first 100 days of Biden’s presidency, “including taking aggressive action to curb COVID-19, providing resources for small businesses, families, schools, and state and local governments to support economic our recovery, and investing in the middle class, ”according to the testimony.
The president-elect also promised to work closely with Republicans in Congress to fulfill his governing agenda, but so far he has turned his attention to leading Democrats in Congress.
The meeting came two days after House Democrats nominated Pelosi as a speaker. She seemed to assume that this would be her last two years in the leadership position.
President Donald Trump continues to block the smooth transfer of power to Biden, refusing to allow his administration to cooperate with the transition team. In particular, the Trump administration has denied Biden access to detailed national security briefings and pandemic planning, which both party leaders say are important in preparing Biden to rule as soon as he takes office on Jan. 20.
Trying to circumvent the Trump administration as a whole, Biden met practically on Thursday. with a collection of republican and democratic governors.
The Trump administration’s secretary of health and humanitarian services, Alex Hazard, told CBS this morning that Biden’s accusation that delaying the transition would cost American lives was “absolutely wrong.”
“Every aspect of what we do is completely transparent – without secret data or knowledge,” Hazard said.
Trump, meanwhile, is stepping up his attempts to cast doubt on the election results. The outgoing president’s unprecedented campaign to spread disinformation now involves pressure on Michigan officials to block the verification of election results in their country.
Biden won Michigan with more than 150,000 votes, 15 times the victory of Trump in the state four years ago.
Electoral experts say Trump’s impetus is the last, dying breath of his campaign, and say Biden will certainly enter the Oval Office in January. But there is great concern that Trump’s efforts are doing real damage to public belief in the integrity of the US election.
___ Associated Press Congress correspondent Lisa Mascaro contributed to this report from Washington.