Pandemic response, spending top agenda in Biden meeting with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer

Bart Jansen, USA TODAY
·3 min read

President-elect Joe Biden met Friday with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer to discuss federal spending, both in response to the coronavirus pandemic and to keep the government open.

“I hope we’re going to spend a lot of time together,” Biden told Pelosi and Schumer in brief opening comments at The Queen theater in Wilmington, Delaware, before reporters left the room.

Biden has urged the Republican-controlled Senate to consider $2 trillion legislation for COVID-19 from the Democratic House aimed providing a second wave of direct payments to taxpayers, aid to state and local governments, and food and rental assistance.

But Republicans leery of the price tag supported a $500 billion package to focus on small-business loans, additional unemployment benefits and aid to schools, and for testing.

“It is a targeted bill,” Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., told reporters Tuesday. “It's a fiscally responsible bill.”

Negotiations reached an impasse before the break for Thanksgiving.

“We are in a full-blown economic and health catastrophe, and it is amazing to see the patience the GOP has for other people’s suffering," Pelosi, D-Calif., told reporters at the Capitol before meeting Biden.

President-elect Joe Biden (center) speaks Nov. 20, 2020, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., in Wilmington, Delaware.
President-elect Joe Biden (center) speaks Nov. 20, 2020, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., in Wilmington, Delaware.

Another priority for congressional leaders is to approve funding for the government, for the year that began Oct. 1. Lawmakers approved temporary funding that lasts until Dec. 11, but must still reach an agreement for the rest of the fiscal year.

Pelosi said staffers for Democratic and Republican leaders of both chambers met inconclusively Thursday, but that neither side wanted another temporary spending bill.

“We don’t want another continuing resolution," Pelosi said. "I don’t think they do either."

House chairmen have also asked the General Services Administration for a briefing by Monday about why a formal transition hasn't been approved for Biden, to provide access to personnel and information from federal agencies. President Donald Trump continues to challenge the results of the election in court, so GSA Administrator Emily Murphy hasn't approved Biden's transition.

“It is totally mystifying that the GSA refuses to make the statement necessary for the transition to happen in an orderly fashion," Pelosi said. “Let’s hope for the best."

Looking to next year, Biden has proposed to spend trillions over the next decade on manufacturing and the development of clean energy, to rebuild the economy, and on caregivers working on the front lines responding to COVID-19.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., speaks Nov. 20, 2020, during her weekly news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. She met Friday afternoon with President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., speaks Nov. 20, 2020, during her weekly news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. She met Friday afternoon with President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.

But Biden's plans anticipate rescinding much of Trump's tax cut for individuals earning more than $400,000 per year and corporations, which would require legislation in Congress. Republicans have questioned the need for greater spending.

The meeting with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris came after a bipartisan roundtable Thursday with the National Governors Association's executive committee. The governors sought better coordination for how potential vaccines will be distributed to 330 million Americans and for federal aid to states and local governments.

Biden promised to distribute the vaccine for free. He also committed to wielding the Defense Production Act, to compel industries to make more protective equipment such as masks and gowns, and to provide funding for the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the National Guard, to assist states in responding to the virus.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Biden meets Pelosi, Schumer to plot legislation for coronavirus, spending