President-elect Joe Biden said his transition “should be further along” and President Donald Trump’s refusal to acknowledge the outcome of the 2020 election is creating problems in the nation’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
“There’s a whole lot of things that are just – we just don’t have available to us, which unless made available soon, we’re going to be behind by weeks or months,” President-elect Biden said in a virtual meeting with front-line healthcare workers.
Biden, who is the apparent winner of the election, faulted the Trump administration for not following US law providing for a cooperative transition between presidents.
“What we’re having now is the failure of the administration to recognise what the law says,” Biden said.
As a result, “we’ve been unable to get access to the kinds of things we need to know,” he said.
The Trump administration is preventing Biden’s incoming team from learning about stockpiles of personal protective equipment (PPE), he said. “We know there’s not much at all.”
Importantly, Biden said his transition team is being prevented from learning what the plan is for distributing vaccines as they become available.
Two vaccine makers have announced positive results from large-scale clinical trials. The Trump administration has prepared a plan called “Operation Warp Speed” in which doses of the vaccines have been manufactured in advance and will be distributed by the US military.
Biden’s remarks came in a virtual conference with representatives of doctors, nurses and first responders organised by his transition team.
Biden said he was hopeful that Republicans in Congress, where talks on a coronavirus spending package are stalled, will be more willing to send money to state and local governments after Trump leaves office.
Biden promised to make funding for states and localities a priority when he takes office in January and suggested Republicans have resisted including local funding in a pandemic-relief package “because of their fear of retribution from the president”.
“Hopefully, when he’s gone, they’ll be more willing to do what they know should be done, has to be done, in order to save the communities they live in,” Biden said.
States are facing enormous financial shortfalls as a result of lost tax revenue related to the pandemic that may threaten local healthcare systems, law enforcement and education.
Meanwhile, legislators on both sides of the aisle were criticised by a Wall Street titan, who urged Republicans and Democrats to split their differences and cut a deal.
“This is childish behaviour on the part of our politicians,” JPMorgan Chase & Co Chief Executive Jamie Dimon told a New York Times conference.
“Just get it done,” Dimon said.
Democrats have proposed a compromise $2.2-trillion spending package, while Senate Republicans have sought a narrower $500bn bill that Democrats have said is inadequate.
“Our colleagues face a simple choice. They put the election behind them and work across the aisle to get something done, or they can remain in their partisan corner,” Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said.
Before the November 3 election, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin tried but failed to agree on a relief package of approximately $2 trillion.
Republican leader Mitch McConnell, who favours a $500bn package, said Congress should aim for agreement on items where there is already compromise.
“Republicans stand ready to deliver this urgent aid. Let’s fund all the programmes where there’s not even real disagreement. Just this once, where there’s no disagreement. And let’s do it now. We just need Democrats to finally get serious about this,” McConnell said.