President-elect Joe Biden swung behind a bipartisan COVID-19 relief effort Wednesday and his top Capitol Hill allies cut their demands for a $2 trillion-plus measure by more than half in hopes of breaking a monthslong logjam and delivering much-sought aid as the tempestuous congressional session speeds to a close.
Biden said the developing aid package "wouldn’t be the answer, but it would be the immediate help for a lot of things.” He wants a relief bill to pass Congress now even though it would “at best only be a down payment” with more aid to come next year.
Biden's remarks followed an announcement by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Democrat leader Chuck Schumer of New York in support of an almost $1 trillion approach as the “basis” for discussions. The announcement appeared aimed at budging Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who so far has been unwilling to abandon a $550 million Senate GOP plan that has failed twice this fall.
In other developments:
- U.S. hospitals slammed with COVID-19 patients are trying to lure nurses and doctors out of retirement, recruiting students and new graduates who have yet to earn their licenses and offering eye-popping salaries in a desperate effort to ease staffing shortages.
- Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin are urging Congress to approve COVID-19 relief funds without further delay, though Democrats continued to attack a decision by Mnuchin to allow five Fed lending programs to expire during the pandemic.
- U.S. health officials say staying home for the upcoming winter holidays is the best way to stay safe and protect others. But for those who ignore that advice, COVID-19 testing before and after trips is an option.
- Britain could be dispensing the COVID-19 vaccine within days after becoming the first country in the world to authorize its use, putting the spotlight on a little-known German biotechnology company. In Russia, President Vladimir Putin has ordered the start of a large-scale COVID-19 vaccination by late next week. The Sputnik V shots have yet to complete advanced studies needed to ensure effectiveness and safety.
- A Federal Reserve survey of business conditions around the country found that economic activity in several regions slowed in November as coronavirus cases surged.
- Several California politicians have been called out in the last month for their dining choices that violate the state's rules aimed at slowing the spread of coronavirus.
- NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the league remains committed to finishing the regular season as scheduled. Goodell also said that while the NFL is considering a bubble format for the playoffs, it wouldn't necessarily resemble what the NHL and NBA used in successfully in completing their seasons.