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Biden, calling stimulus bill a ‘down payment’, asks for more relief

WILMINGTON, Del. – A day after Congress approved a hard-fought $ 900 billion stimulus package, President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. called the measure a “down payment” on Tuesday and vowed to take office the month next by asking lawmakers to return to the negotiating table.

“Congress has done its job this week,” he said, “and I can and must ask them to do it again next year.”

At a year-end press conference in Wilmington, Del., Mr Biden remained vague on the details of his plan. But he appeared to be laying the groundwork for how he will handle the country’s economic recovery, signaling that another major economic relief program would be a priority.

Mr Biden said he plans to ask Congress to pass another bill that would include more funding to help firefighters, police and nurses. He said his bill would include a new round of stimulus checks to Americans, but how much money they contained would be a matter of negotiation.

His goal, he said, was to have the money to distribute vaccines to 300 million people, to support Americans who have lost their jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic, and to help businesses stay open.

“People are in desperate pain,” he says.

The $ 900 billion package approved by Congress on Monday would provide billions of dollars for vaccine distribution and support for small businesses, schools and cultural institutions.

It would also allocate a series of direct payments of $ 600 to millions of American adults and children, and support a series of expanded and extended unemployment benefits for 11 weeks. These programs will decrease, which could result in some form of congressional action before then.

“I think everyone understands that Vice President Biden is going to be asking for another bill, so we’ll have another chance to see him again probably very soon,” Republican Senator John Cornyn told reporters on Monday.

Mr Biden has not negotiated directly with lawmakers over the stimulus, but his new chief of staff Ron Klain and other officials called to serve in the administration have been kept abreast of the hour’s developments in hour in the talks, according to Democratic officials know the situation.

Behind the scenes, Mr. Biden quietly pushed lawmakers to find a compromise that would provide at least modest help after months of congressional inaction. He praised the bipartisan group of moderate lawmakers who crafted a framework for weeks of video calls, texts and crests on Capitol Hill, helping to lift leadership out of a months-long standoff and inspiring a wave last minute negotiations.

At a November meeting in Wilmington with the two main Congressional Democrats – President Nancy Pelosi of California and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the minority leader – the three leaders discussed their common agenda, the divisions deep policies with Republicans and the extra work they planned. to be continued in January.

And drastically lowering their demands for yet another multibillion-dollar package, Democrats cited the surprise success of early vaccine trials, Mr Biden’s election victory and his promise to continue another relief program in January. as part of their reason for doing so.

“Joe Biden calling it a first step, a down payment – we knew we would get back to it, and we would have better luck with a Democratic president who cared about science,” Ms Pelosi said in an interview, adding that “we will have the presidential leadership.

But discussions of another relief plan will pose a first test of Mr Biden’s approach to working with Congress and his optimism about the prospects for bipartisan legislation in intensely polarized times. With just under a month to go before the inauguration, he still doesn’t know what the balance of power in Congress will be when he takes office, and House Democrats face a significantly smaller majority in 2021 .

Even if Democrats win both ballots for Georgia Senate seats on January 5 and take control of the chamber, the current Senate rules will require Republican backing to ensure the legislation empties the chamber. If Republicans retain at least one of those seats, Mr. Biden will find himself struggling with a Republican majority in the Senate.

In pursuing another package, he will also face the prospect of wrestling with an elusive compromise on two of the thorniest policy arrangements: a direct stream of funding for state and local governments, for which he has repeatedly expressed his support, and a Republican demand for radical action. Liability protection from Covid-related lawsuits for businesses, schools and other institutions. With both sides so immersed in the two issues for about eight months of debate, leaders in Congress ultimately agreed to remove the two provisions from the final $ 900 billion deal.

Republicans on Capitol Hill have begun to tacitly acknowledge Mr. Biden’s public desire for another package. But after spending more than $ 3 trillion this year to help the economy and struggling families, businesses and institutions, several Republicans are resisting yet another sweeping package in early 2021.

“If we meet critical needs now and things improve next year as the vaccine becomes available and the economy starts to pick up again, you know, then the needs may be less.” The Senate Republican No. 2 told reporters last week before the deal was struck.

Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, refused to commit to another round of relief, but did not rule out another round of negotiations.

“I am happy to assess this against the needs we face in February and March,” McConnell told reporters on a press call Monday. “I do not exclude it or exclude it.

Throughout his campaign, Mr Biden has stressed the importance of building consensus between the two parties – a mindset some Democrats have called unrealistic.

But Mr. Biden, who spent 36 years as a senator from Delaware, continues to express confidence in the way Republicans will work with him. He noted Tuesday that he had been criticized for “my naivety about how Congress works.”

“I think I have been proven in all areas,” said the president-elect.

Mr Biden reiterated that he believes President Trump’s departure from the White House will change the political dynamic in Washington. “I think with Donald Trump it doesn’t, it will also improve the prospect of getting things done,” he said.

Mr Biden has plenty of experience watching new presidents try to advance their goals on Capitol Hill, and he was asked on Tuesday if he thinks he would have a honeymoon period to achieve his goals.

“I don’t think it’s a honeymoon at all,” he replied. “I think it’s a nightmare that everyone is going through, and they all say it has to end.

Thomas Kaplan reported from Wilmington and Annie Karni and Emily Cochrane from Washington. Nicholas Fandos contributed reporting from New York and Glenn Thrush from Washington.

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