Biden urges passing of $1.2t stimulus Bill as economy stalls

President-elect notes grim job report, vows to press for additional relief once he takes office

Biden speaks on the latest unemployment figures in Wilmington, Delaware on Dec 4, 2020 PHOTO: AFP

WILMINGTON (Delaware) • US President-elect Joe Biden said Friday's grim employment report shows the economic recovery is stalling and warned the "dark winter" ahead would exacerbate the pain unless Congress passes a coronavirus relief Bill immediately.

"The situation requires urgent action," Mr Biden said in a statement. "Americans need help and they need it now."

A government report earlier showed the labour market slowing last month amid a surge of Covid-19 cases.

Mr Biden, the Democratic former vice-president, has offered support for an emerging bipartisan package of around US$908 billion (S$1.2 trillion) that has drawn tentative backing from members of both parties in Congress.

But he said the Bill would be just the start, and vowed to press for additional relief once he takes office next month.

The President-elect has focused heavily on the pandemic and economy during the transition, after a campaign in which he made President Donald Trump's mishandling of the coronavirus situation a central theme.

He is expected to name Mr Jeff Zients, a co-chair of his transition team and a former Obama administration economic aide, as his coronavirus "czar" to coordinate the government's pandemic response and oversee an ambitious vaccine distribution effort, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Mr Biden last week unveiled his economic team, led by his nominee for Treasury secretary, former Federal Reserve chairman Janet Yellen.

But he faces intensifying pressure from congressional allies and rights groups to make ethnically diverse picks for the remaining slots in his administration.

He is set to meet the board of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People, a long-running black civil rights organisation, on Tuesday to discuss criticisms that his Cabinet picks lacked the representation he promised during a campaign that was propelled by black voters.

The League of United Latin American Citizens, another prominent civil rights group, released a statement on Friday urging "President Biden and his transition team to take a fresh, close-up look at the voting clout of Latinos across America" and ensure his top advisers reflect the nation's diversity.

Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus last Thursday publicly and privately lobbied for Mr Biden to name more Latino members to his top posts, stewing over reports that his team had sidelined Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham - who is of Mexican-American descent - for a position atop the Health and Human Services department after she turned down the job of Interior secretary.

Mr Biden's picks for top roles have included some ground-breaking picks, including Dr Yellen, who would be the first female Treasury secretary; Ms Neera Tanden, who would be the first woman of colour to run the Office of Management and Budget; and Dr Cecilia Rouse, who would be the first black woman to oversee the Council of Economic Advisers.

Transition spokesman Jen Psaki told reporters on Friday that Mr Biden would announce more positions early this week, including members of his public health team.


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 06, 2020, with the headline Biden urges passing of $1.2t stimulus Bill as economy stalls. Subscribe