By Trevor Hunnicutt and Doina Chiacu
President-elect Joe Biden said “more people may die” if outgoing President Donald Trump continues to block efforts to plan for a U.S. transition of power as the coronavirus pandemic worsens, and added that he would not hesitate to get vaccinated.
Biden also said business and labor leaders had signaled willingness to cooperate to fix the pandemic-battered U.S. economy but stressed COVID-19 first must be brought under control and urged Congress to pass relief legislation.
The Democratic president-elect delivered a speech and took questions from journalists in Wilmington, Delaware, after consulting with the CEOs of top U.S. companies and labor leaders on Monday.
He welcomed further progress in COVID-19 vaccine development.
Biden said the CEOs and labor leaders were “ready to come together” and that “the unity was astounding.” Biden will inherit an economy that has suffered millions of job losses during a pandemic that has killed more than 246,000 people in the United States. U.S. COVID-19 cases are surging as Biden prepares to take office on Jan. 20.
“We’re going into a very dark winter. Things are going to get much tougher before they get easier,” Biden said of the pandemic.
In response to a question about the consequences of the Trump administration not cooperating with the Biden transition team on fighting the pandemic, he said, “More people may die if we don’t coordinate.”
“As you battle COVID, we have to make sure that businesses and workers have the tools, the resources and the national guidance and health and safety standards to operate safely,” Biden added.
Biden said it would be a lot easier for the presidential transition if Trump were to cooperate but said of the incumbent’s refusal to concede: “I find this more embarrassing for the country than debilitating for my ability to get started.”
He called for bipartisan cooperation against the pandemic and urged Congress to pass pandemic relief legislation. Talks on such legislation stalled for months before the Nov. 3 election.
Biden said the coronavirus continues to spread “almost unabated” and that it was state governors who were stepping up.
On other economic matters, Biden said he plans to pursue “a fairer tax structure” with corporations paying their fair share and added that he wanted to see a $15 hourly minimum wage nationwide. Biden said no government contracts will be given to companies that do not make products in the United States.
Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris held a midday video conference with several chief executives including General Motors Co’s Mary Barra, Microsoft Corp’s Satya Nadella, Target Corp’s Brian Cornell and Gap Inc’s Sonia Syngal.
Also taking part were AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka and the heads of the Service Employees International Union, the United Auto Workers and two other large unions.
Biden told reporters that he made it clear to corporations on the video conference that he is a “union guy.”