By Trevor Hunnicutt
President-elect Joe Biden will press Congress on Thursday to deliver immediate pandemic “rescue” efforts before turning to broader “recovery” measures like healthcare and infrastructure, the incoming administration’s top economic adviser said on Wednesday.
In an appearance at Reuters Next, Brian Deese, who will head the National Economic Council in the new Democratic administration, said Biden will lay out a two-track economic plan.
The first will be a “rescue bucket,” including rounding out the $2,000 payments he wanted to help weather the COVID-19 downturn, and a longer-term recovery effort that aims to deliver on the Build Back Better plan he laid out during the presidential campaign.
He said the transition team has already started briefing senior Democratic and Republican lawmakers on the proposal, which will be unveiled on Thursday.
The proposal will include the direct payments, money to ramp up a national vaccinations effort, testing, contact tracing and funding to get most schools reopened shortly.
“What you are going to hear from the president-elect is a robust effort to get at that issue of … relief and at the same time signal the need to begin working on those investments in the recovery,” said Deese.
“We need an immediate rescue package that finishes the work that Congress took an important step on in December, but left a lot of work undone. We need to focus immediately again on underwriting the investments necessary to make a nationwide vaccination program work.”
Biden estimated last week that his plan would cost “trillions” of dollars, investments he said were needed to stave off long-term damage and human suffering as the labor market wobbles.
The Democrat, who takes office on Jan. 20, emerged emboldened from a pair of Senate elections this week in Georgia that handed Democrats a majority in that chamber to complement control of the House of Representatives. The majorities could allow Biden to pass larger spending bills.
Yet Republicans and even some Democrats may be resistant to greater deficit-fueled spending, with Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, among those who initially greeted the idea skeptically.
Deese pointed to the most recent U.S. employment report, which showed 140,000 jobs lost in December – the first decline in payrolls since April – as a warning that must be heeded.
“The December jobs report I think is a signal for all of us to take very seriously that the trajectory of the virus and the trajectory of the economy are not where they need to be,” Deese said.