During a virtual roundtable with Americans who shared their stories of how the coronavirus pandemic has affected them financially, Biden called on Congress to immediately pass a relief package — even as he acknowledged that any bill passed during the lame-duck session would only be a “down payment” on a larger effort to come once he takes office.
“The point is, the full Congress should come together and pass a robust package of relief to address your urgent needs now,” Biden told the participants in Wednesday’s roundtable.
After listening to several participants talking of the economic hardship they have faced during the pandemic, the president-elect prefaced his remarks by noting that there’s very little he can do at the moment.
“To state the obvious, my ability to get you help immediately does not exist. I’m not even in office for another 50 days. And then I have to get legislation passed through the United States Congress to get things done,” he said.
Biden then outlined his priorities for helping Americans get back on their feet, including extending unemployment insurance; ensuring businesses have the resources they need to open safely; providing states and cities with funding so workers can go back to work; and preventing Americans from getting evicted during the pandemic.
Ultimately, Biden said, he thinks Congress is “trying like the devil” to come to an agreement. But he added that “what happened was the president said he wouldn’t support it, and, apparently, Republicans in the Congress said — the House, the Senate — said they wouldn’t support it.”
“So it’s now back to square one again,” he said.
At one point in his remarks, Biden held up the face mask that he usually wears while in public, directly challenging those who have opposed face coverings on the grounds that they violate their freedom.
“When I have this mask on, it’s less about me being safe. It’s about me making sure that you’re safe,” he said. “It’s a patriotic thing to do. It really is. You know, I hear all this about, ‘Well, it’s a great sacrifice of my freedom.’ Well, tell that to all the people who went to World War I and gave their lives, and World War II, and the Korean War, and talk to me — I mean, come on.”
Biden added: “You’re helping other people. It’s not you. It’s other people. Other people. And, so, I think we have to change the mind-set here a little bit. It’s got to be about giving.”