Biden says people need coronavirus relief 'right now' as Republican and Democratic divisions hold up a stimulus package and $1,200 checks

Joe Biden
President-elect Joe Biden. Drew Angerer/Getty Images
  • President-elect Joe Biden said Tuesday that people are in need of federal coronavirus relief "right now."

  • At a press conference he referenced "small businesses, people who are about to be evicted from their homes because they can't pay their mortgage, unemployment insurance."

  • But Democrats and Republicans are still far apart on a stimulus package, and it's unclear whether they will bridge those divisions by next month when they must act to avert a government shutdown.

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President-elect Joe Biden urged lawmakers to quickly pass a coronavirus relief package on Tuesday, saying people and small businesses are in immediate need of federal assistance.

"One of the urgent things that need to be done is people need relief right now — right now: small businesses, people who are about to be evicted from their homes because they can't pay their mortgage, unemployment insurance," Biden said at a press conference.

He said a "failure" to provide cash-strapped state and local governments with additional money could lead to layoffs of first responders and firefighters.

"I would hope the president at least has the sensitivity and knowledge to know a lot of people are in real trouble right now — between now and the time we get sworn in," Biden said.

The president-elect said both Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi "know my views" and indicated he's been communicating with them on economic-relief planning.

Read more: House Democrats will keep some of their Trump investigations and court fights active once the lame-duck president leaves the White House

The comments came after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell indicated he supported a package much smaller than Democrats want.

"It seems to me that snag that hung us up for months is still there," the Kentucky senator told reporters on Capitol Hill Tuesday. "I don't think the current situation demands a multitrillion-dollar package."

McConnell also said a stimulus package should resemble the previous plan that Republicans unveiled in September and October, and cited a drop in the unemployment rate to 6.9% in the latest jobs report.

Democrats dismissed the $500 billion GOP measure twice, assailing it as woefully inadequate to confront the public-health and economic crises. It included $300 weekly federal unemployment benefits, small-business aid, as well as healthcare and education funding.

Yet the measure omitted $1,200 direct payments for taxpayers and assistance for strapped state and local governments, two key Democratic priorities. McConnell indicated last week another rescue package could include aid for state and local governments, suggesting it may be slightly bigger.

It's unclear how both parties will bridge the divisions that have hobbled them for months. The Trump administration supported a large stimulus package before the election, but talks with congressional Democrats collapsed. Now the White House is allowing McConnell to take the lead, and he's long supported a targeted relief plan.

Democrats are pressing for at least $2 trillion in further spending to send another wave of $1,200 direct payments and reinstate the $600 federal unemployment benefits among other relief measures. Both McConnell and Pelosi have indicated in the past they support a second round of stimulus checks.

Biden earlier this year called for a stimulus "a hell of a lot bigger" than the $2 trillion spent under the CARES Act in May. The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a nonpartisan group, released an analysis putting the likely price tag on a Biden stimulus plan at $3 trillion.

Many economists have said additional stimulus spending is needed to prop up a slowing economic recovery.

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