A new COVID-19 relief bill looks to be unlikely as Congress began a lame-duck session Monday, with election results giving more ground to President-elect Joe Biden and President Donald Trump's refusal to concede defeat making his current stance on Republican negotiation unclear, despite his push during his reelection campaign, reports the Associated Press. Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's reelection has put him in a stronger spot when it comes to the hardline negotiations of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Having held their seats in the election, Republicans in control of the Senate now have greater bargaining power after Trump's team took the lead in months of frustrating negotiations, indicating support for a stimulus package of up to $2 trillion, as asked for by Democrats. "I’m glad that Sen. McConnell has determined that he’ll be the chief negotiator for our side of the building," said Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri, as per the AP, adding that Pelosi "certainly should be more motivated to get a deal than maybe she was before the election."
The return to negotiations comes as COVID-19 cases surge across the country in a third spike that health officials warn is the worst yet. Friday, the U.S. broke its own record in daily cases, with more than 132,700 new confirmed cases reported, according to The New York Times database. As of Wednesday, 10.3 million people in the U.S. have been infected with COVID-19, and 240,241 people have died of coronavirus-related deaths.
Monday, Biden made it clear in an address to the American people he does not want to wait until January to get a relief package passed. "Although we are not in office yet, I’m just laying out what we expect to do and hope can be done, some of it, between now and the time we’re sworn in," the former vice president said. "There’s a need for bold action to fight this pandemic. We’re still facing a very dark winter."
Biden also named Monday the members of a new COVID task force co-chaired by Vivek H. Murthy, surgeon general during the Obama administration; David Kessler, Food and Drug Administration commissioner under Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton; and Marcella Nunez-Smith, associate dean for health equity research at the Yale School of Medicine. The remaining members are all doctors and health experts, which is part of Biden's science-based approach to the pandemic response.
"Daily cases are skyrocketing, and it's now believed we could see as many as 200,000 cases in a single day," Biden said. "I want you to know that I’ll work hard for those who voted against me as well as those who voted for me. That’s the job. That's the job. It’s called the duty of care for all Americans."