WILMINGTON, DELAWARE - President-elect Joe Biden is calling on Congress to enact billions of dollars in emergency COVID-19 assistance before the year's end, according to a senior adviser who warned Friday that "there's no more room for delay."
Biden transition aide Jen Psaki delivered the remarks before Biden's first in-person meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer since he was projected the winner of the presidential election. Biden hosted the pair Friday afternoon at his makeshift transition headquarters in a downtown Wilmington, Delaware, theater.
Biden sat with Schumer, Pelosi and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, all wearing masks and spaced out around a bank of tables.
"In my Oval Office, mi casa, you casa," Biden said during the brief portion of the meeting that journalists were allowed to witness. "I hope we're going to spend a lot of time together."
Pelosi said at an earlier news conference that she and Schumer would be talking with Biden about "the urgency of crushing the virus," as well as how to use the lame-duck session of Congress, legislation on keeping the government funded and COVID-19 relief.
But prospects for new virus aid this year remain uncertain. Pelosi said talks with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the GOP leadership on Thursday did not produce any consensus on a new virus aid package.
"That didn't happen, but hopefully it will," she said.
Also Friday, McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, proposed that Congress shift $455 billion of unspent small-business lending funds toward a new COVID-19 aid package. His offer came after a meeting with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows.
Biden's new governing team is facing intense pressure to push another COVID-19 relief bill and come up with a clear plan to distribute millions of doses of a prospective vaccine, even as Biden is just days away from unveiling the first of his Cabinet picks, which are subject to Senate confirmation.
Psaki said that Biden, Pelosi and Schumer are working together on a pandemic relief bill before Congress adjourns for the year.
"They're in lockstep agreement that there needs to be emergency assistance and aid during the lame-duck session to help families, to help small businesses," Psaki said. "There's no more room for delay, and we need to move forward as quickly as possible."
The president-elect has also promised to work closely with Republicans in Congress to execute his governing agenda, but so far, he has focused his congressional outreach on his leading Democratic allies.
The meeting came two days after House Democrats nominated Pelosi to be the speaker who guides them again next year as Biden becomes president, though she seemed to suggest these would be her final two years in the leadership post.
President Donald Trump continues to refuse to allow his administration to cooperate with Biden's transition team. Specifically, the Trump administration is denying Biden access to detailed briefings on national security and pandemic planning that leaders in both parties say are important for preparing Biden to govern immediately after his January 20 inauguration.
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Friday on "CBS This Morning" that Biden's charge that the transition delays would cost American lives was "absolutely incorrect."
"Every aspect of what we do is completely transparent - no secret data or knowledge," Azar said.