America (Channel TT): President-elect Joe Biden began lobbying Congress to quickly approve a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 aid plan to improve vaccine distribution, provide direct payments to Americans and bolster state and local government coffers.
In a televised speech Thursday evening, Biden delivered a message that appeared tailored for Republicans and more fiscally moderate Democrats who are unlikely to cheer the prospect of another costly pandemic relief bill just weeks after lawmakers approved a $902 billion package.
The former Delaware Democratic senator argued that lawmakers not only have an “economic imperative to act now” but a “moral obligation” to help the nation weather a pandemic that has killed more than 385,000 Americans.
In addition to bolstering the health care system and the economy, Biden said, his plan would help correct long-standing economic disparities that worsened during the last year.
“The decisions we make in the next few weeks and months are going to determine whether we thrive in a way that benefits all Americans, or whether we stay stuck in a place where those at the top do great while economic growth for most everyone else is just a spectator sport,” Biden said.
But Republican senators fired off warning shots on Twitter that Biden was seeking to do too much too fast. The plan Biden rolled out Thursday will be the first of two legislative initiatives the incoming administration wants Congress to approve in the coming weeks
The second proposal will likely be released in February and will focus on recovering from the pandemic. That proposal is expected to include funding for addressing climate change through job development and infrastructure as well as addressing the health care workforce.
The issue gridlocked Congress for months last year until party leaders set aside both to pass the latest $902 billion virus aid package.
The Biden team will also have a tough time getting broad bipartisan support for increasing the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $15 and eliminating lower minimum wages for tipped workers and people with disabilities. One Biden official said the president-elect believes now is "an economically smart" moment to lift the minimum wage.