Joe Biden says Covid stimulus package stalling because Republicans fear incurring Trump’s wrath

Congress has been deadlocked for some five months

Matt Mathers
Thursday 19 November 2020 18:01 GMT
Covid cases are about to explode in US FDA commissioner warns.

President-elect Joe Biden has suggested Republicans in Congress are stalling on a coronavirus stimulus package because they fear retribution from Donald Trump.

The incoming commander-in-chief said he hopes Democrats and Republicans can make more progress on a deal when Mr Trump leaves office in January.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have so far failed to agree terms on further legislation aimed at helping Americans struggling through the pandemic.

Democrats have proposed a package worth $2.2 trillion, which Senate Republicans have repeatedly blocked.

They say that figure is too high and have put forward a slimmer package of $500 billion, which was in turn thrown out by Democrats.

Speaking to health care workers during a virtual meeting on Wednesday, Mr Biden suggested GOP lawmakers would not sign off on the larger package for fear of retaliation by the outgoing president.

“Hopefully, when he’s gone, they will be more willing to do what they know should be done - has to be done - in order to save the communities they live in,” he said.

Despite losing the election, Mr Trump retains a stranglehold on the Republican Party,  having picked up some 73.5 million votes in a record-breaking election for turn out.

Trump voters helped many Republicans lawmakers hold onto their seats. Those politicians will be keen not to been viewed as at odds with the president, potentially putting off a portion of their electoral base.

The president increased his administration's offer to $1.8 trillion in October but his time is now consumed with fighting election result legal battles.

As coronavirus cases and deaths hit the quarter-million mark, both sides came under increasing pressure to cut a deal that seeks to help those worst hit by the pandemic.

JPMorgan Chase & Co chief executive Jamie Dimon blasted lawmakers over the political impasse, which has been dragging on for some five months.

"This is childish behaviour on the part of our politicians," he told a New York Times conference. "Just get it done," he added.

But there appears to be no movement on the bill on Capitol Hill, despite meetings between Democrat House speaker Nancy Pelosi and White House aides.

“Our colleagues face a simple choice. They put the election behind them and work across the aisle to get something done, or they can remain in their partisan corner,” said Democrat Senate minority leader, Chuch Schumer.

He did not object to the notion that lawmakers may have to resort to making coronavirus relief part of a government funding bill that must pass Congress next month to keep government agencies operating.

Before the 3 November election, Speaker Pelosi and Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin tried but failed to agree on a relief package of around $2 trillion.

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, who favours a $500 billion package, said Congress should aim for agreement on items where there is little disagreement. But he blamed Democrats for the lack of progress.

“Republicans stand ready to deliver this urgent aid. Let’s fund all the programs where there’s not even real disagreement. Just this once, where there’s no disagreement. And let’s do it now. We just need Democrats to finally get serious about this,” senator McConnell said.

Meanwhile, senator Lindsey Graham, a prominent Republican and Trump ally, said he would favour a bigger package that includes assistance for small businesses hit hard by the pandemic.

“I think we need more than $500 billion,” he told reporters. “In South Carolina, our economy is hanging pretty tenuous because the virus has taken a toll.”

Congress had already passed $3 trillion in coronavirus assistance early in the pandemic.

With Reuters.

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