CORONAVIRUS

Biden Backs Democrats' Pursuit Of Bigger COVID-19 Relief Deal

A spokesman for the president-elect said he supports congressional leaders' strategy of holding out for the largest possible stimulus deal.

President-elect Joe Biden supports congressional Democrats in holding out for a more comprehensive coronavirus relief package than Republicans have been willing to support, a spokesman for the presidential transition said Monday.

The New York Times had reported over the weekend that advisers to Biden wanted Democratic leaders in Congress to “reach a quick stimulus deal with Senate Republicans, even if it falls short of the larger package Democrats have been seeking.” On Monday, Biden’s spokesman called the story “incorrect.”

For months, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) have pushed for a large stimulus bill they say is needed to jump-start the economy and provide additional relief to millions of Americans suffering amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“The President-elect fully supports the Speaker and Leader in their negotiations,” Biden transition spokesman Andrew Bates told HuffPost when asked about the Times story on Monday.

Nearly 12 million people are set to lose federal unemployment benefits next month unless lawmakers agree to a deal extending relief measures they passed early in the pandemic. A moratorium on evictions, student debt forbearance and tax breaks are also at risk of expiring.

Democrats have been pushing for a multitrillion-dollar package of new relief while Republicans remain flatly opposed to a large spending bill. The monthslong standoff threatens to kneecap a sputtering economy saddled with historically high unemployment claims that are on the rise once again.

Biden last week held his first in-person meeting with Pelosi and Schumer since the Nov. 3 election. At the president-elect’s transition office in Wilmington, Delaware, the three Democratic leaders projected a unified front on stimulus negotiations, saying in a statement afterward that lawmakers “needed to pass a bipartisan emergency aid package in the lame-duck session,” before Congress adjourns for the year.

It’s unlikely that will happen anytime soon, however. Republicans who have rediscovered fiscal conservatism following President Donald Trump’s loss are hoping to retain control of the Senate in January after two runoff elections in Georgia, an outcome that would give them an upper hand in negotiations with Biden’s incoming administration.

“Looks like Pelosi still calling the shots,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) tweeted on Monday in response to Biden’s team suggesting he was on the same page as congressional Democrats.

Kristine Astolfi of Las Vegas has been unemployed since April, when she lost her job with a company that designs and builds trade show booths. With the virus spreading like crazy, the trade show industry, like many others that rely on big rooms full of people, has begged Congress for more help

Astolfi, 57, said she’s been frantically applying for jobs that would pay enough for her to make car and house payments, but hasn’t been getting any callbacks. The unemployment rate in Las Vegas in September, according to the most recent data, was 14.8% ― much higher than the national average.

“They’re going to hire all the young people before I get a job,” she said. 

Her savings are dwindling, and she feels she’s only got enough money to make it through January. 

“It’s very, very scary, and I have no idea what’s going to happen,” Astolfi said. “I wish Congress didn’t have to send us more money, but I have no idea what else we can do.”