Biden, Calling Covid Relief Bill a ‘Down Payment,’ Urges More Relief
“Joe Biden calling this a first step, a down payment — we knew that we would revisit it, and we would have a better chance with a Democratic president who cared about science,” Ms. Pelosi said in an interview, adding that “we’ll have presidential leadership.”But the discussions about another relief package will pose an initial test of Mr. Biden’s approach to working with Congress, and his optimism about the prospects of bipartisan legislating in an intensely polarized era. With just under a month until the inauguration, he still does not know what the balance of power will be in Congress when he assumes office, and House Democrats face a significantly smaller majority in 2021.Even if Democrats win both runoff elections for Georgia’s Senate seats on Jan. 5 and gain control of the chamber, current Senate rules will require some Republican support to ensure that legislation clears the chamber. If Republicans hold on to at least one of those seats, Mr. Biden will be left contending with a Republican Senate majority.In pursuing another package, he will also face the prospect of wrangling an elusive compromise on two of the thorniest policy provisions: a direct stream of funding for state and local governments, which he has repeatedly voiced support for, and a Republican demand for a sweeping liability shield from Covid-related lawsuits for businesses, schools and other institutions. With both sides so dug in on the two issues over about eight months of debate, congressional leaders ultimately agreed to remove both provisions from the final $900 billion agreement.Republicans on Capitol Hill have begun to tacitly acknowledge Mr. Biden’s public desire for another package. But after spending more than $3 trillion this year to help the economy and struggling families, businesses and institutions, several Republicans are resistant to another sweeping package at the start of 2021.“If we address the critical needs right now, and things improve next year as the vaccine gets out there and the economy starts to pick up again, you know, then maybe there’s less of a need,” Senator John Thune of South Dakota, the No. 2 Senate Republican, told reporters last week before the deal was reached.Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, has declined to commit to pursuing another round of relief, though he did not rule out another round of negotiations.