WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President-elect Joe Biden will talk with workers and business owners on Wednesday about how the coronavirus has affected them as he prepares to confront his highest priority on taking office: the resurgent pandemic in the United States.
The Democrat has promised to act quickly to provide more resources to fight the health crisis, which has killed more than 268,000 Americans.
The United States leads the world in the number of daily infections as well as the number of deaths reported.
Biden told the New York Times in an interview published late on Tuesday that he would try to help resolve a monthslong standoff in Congress between Republicans and Democrats over a stimulus package for businesses affected by shutdowns as well as the millions who have lost jobs.
“You have over 10 million people out there who are worried (how) they can pay their next mortgage payment,” Biden said in the interview, and “you have a significantly higher number of people who have no ability to pay their rent.”
Failure on the issue could have political consequences for Republicans currently in the majority in the U.S. Senate, he told the newspaper.
“When you have cops and firefighters and first responders across the board being laid off, when you’re not getting the kind of distribution of vaccines out to rural America, it has to have some consequences,” he was quoted as saying.
Top Senate Republican Mitch McConnell said on Tuesday that Congress should include fresh coronavirus stimulus in a must-pass $1.4 trillion spending bill aimed at heading off a government shutdown.
U.S. health officials say they plan to begin vaccinating Americans against the disease as soon as mid-December. Healthcare workers and residents of long-term care facilities like nursing homes are expected to be first in line.
Biden has selected many of his top national security and economic advisers, though it is unclear how many will win confirmation in a closely divided Senate, control of which will be determined by a pair of January runoff elections in Georgia.
Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris also will receive national security briefings from government officials, in a tacit acknowledgement from the outgoing administration of Republican President Donald Trump that they will be sworn in on Jan. 20.
Trump has refused to concede he lost the Nov. 3 election, and his lawyers continue to file legal challenges to the results, alleging widespread fraud without providing evidence. State and federal election officials have repeatedly said there is no evidence of widespread fraud.
Although the lawsuits have come up short, Trump’s baseless claims have gained traction among his followers and raised as much as $170 million for an “Election Defense Fund” that can be used for a wide variety of future political activities, according to news media reports.
Election officials in several states say they have been subjected to harassment and threats.
A top election official in Georgia implored Trump to tell his followers that he lost fair and square to prevent violence.
“It’s time to look forward. If you want to run for re-election in four years, fine, do it. But everything we’re seeing right now, there’s not a path,” said Gabriel Sterling, a Republican who manages the state’s voting systems.
Attorney General William Barr, the nation’s top law enforcement official, told the Associated Press on Tuesday that the Justice Department has found no evidence of widespread fraud.
Reporting by Andy Sullivan and Brad Heath; Writing by Sonya Hepinstall; Editing by Scott Malone, Raju Gopalakrishnan and Jonathan Oatis
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