Biden says will push Congress for another Covid-19 relief Bill

US coronavirus deaths are rocketing and the economy remains at risk after a year of severe disruption. PHOTO: REUTERS

WILMINGTON, DELAWARE (AFP) - US President-elect Joe Biden said Tuesday (Dec 22) he will ask Congress for another Covid-19 relief Bill when he takes office, insisting that Americans want Republicans and Democrats to work together again after Mr Donald Trump goes.

Mr Biden cast himself as a leader eager to work for the whole country during a national health and economic crisis, in contrast to Mr Trump's divisive style.

"There's a clear understanding that these issues go beyond any ideology. People are desperately hurting and the Republicans are hurting as badly as Democrats," he told reporters in his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware, where he is preparing his transition to power on Jan 20.

Congress passed a US$900 billion (S$1.2 trillion) economic relief Bill on Monday after months of wrangling.

But coronavirus deaths are rocketing and the economy remains at risk after a year of severe disruption. Mr Biden said more assistance for businesses, the unemployed and healthcare facilities is needed - and quickly.

"Congress did its job this week. And I can and I must ask them to do it again next year," Mr Biden said during a pre-holidays speech to the nation before taking questions from journalists. "This Bill is just a first step - a down payment - on addressing the crisis we're in. We have a lot more work to do."

Asked how he intends to bridge the Republican-Democratic divide in the post-Trump era, Mr Biden said members of Congress would welcome his offer of leadership.

"You have a different team in town. I'm not going to villainise the opposition. I'm going to stand and say 'This is what we've got to do,' because they know it," he said. "This is life and death. That's why I believe we'll get it done."

"We need to work in a bipartisan way," he said, adding: "That's the only way we're going to get through this."

Mr Biden cited the need for more resources for vaccine distribution, for testing to reopen schools, and for support for everyone from firefighters and police to nurses.

Addressing the "millions of hurting families who are unable to put food on the table, pay rent or the mortgage," he said they would all continue to need help well into next year.

"One thing I promise you about my leadership during this crisis: I'm going to tell it to you straight. I'm going to tell you the truth," Mr Biden said.

"And here's the simple truth. Our darkest days in the battle against Covid are ahead of us, not behind us. We need to prepare ourselves, to steel our spines."

"There will be no time to waste in taking the steps we need to turn this crisis around."

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