More may die if Trump keeps blocking power transfer, says Biden

WILMINGTON (Delaware) • President-elect Joe Biden has said “more people may die” if outgoing President Donald Trump continues blocking the transition of power in the United States as the coronavirus pandemic worsens, and he urged Congress to pass new relief legislation.

Mr Biden on Monday said that business and labour leaders had signalled willingness to work together to bolster the pandemic-battered US economy, but stressed that Covid-19 must be brought under control first.

The Democratic President-elect delivered a speech and took questions from reporters in Wilmington, Delaware, after consulting jointly with the chief executives of top US companies and labour leaders. He welcomed further progress in Covid-19 vaccine development.

Mr Biden will inherit an economy that has suffered millions of job losses amid a pandemic that has killed more than 247,000 people in the US. America’s Covid-19 cases are surging as he 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,” he said of the pandemic.

Mr Biden again called upon the Trump administration to cooperate with his transition team on containing the surge in cases. “More people may die if we don’t coordinate,” he said.

He also urged Congress to pass pandemic relief legislation. Talks on such legislation had stalled for months even before the Nov 3 presidential election.

Mr Biden insisted, however, that Mr Trump’s refusal to concede was not inhibiting his transition efforts. “I find this more embarrassing for the country than debilitating for my ability to get started,” he said.

The President-elect was set yesterday to focus on shaping his core White House team and receive a briefing on national security threats from his own advisers. Mr Trump has blocked him from receiving classified intelligence briefings usually provided to the successor in a transition.

On other economic matters, Mr Biden said he plans to pursue “a fairer tax structure” with corporations paying their fair share, and added that he wanted to see a US$15 (S$20) hourly minimum wage nationwide.

He also said no government contracts will be given to companies that do not make their products in the US.

Mr Biden and Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris earlier held a midday video conference with several chief executives, including General Motors’ Ms Mary Barra, Microsoft’s Mr Satya Nadella, Target’s Mr Brian Cornell and Gap’s Ms Sonia Syngal.

In their statements, the companies referred to Mr Biden as the “President-elect”, and General Motors said it is looking forward to “working with the new administration” – tacit rejections of Mr Trump’s challenge to the election results.

Mr Trump on Monday again refused to accept his election loss.

His national security adviser Robert O’Brien said the same day that he is prepared to ensure a professional transition to Mr Biden’s team. “If the Biden-Harris ticket is determined to be the winner, and obviously things look like that now, we’ll have a very professional transition from the National Security Council, there’s no question about it,” Mr O’Brien said.

In the state-by-state electoral college, Mr Biden surpassed the 270 votes needed to win with 306 votes to Mr Trump’s 232.

As states work to certify those results before a Dec 8 deadline, Mr Trump and his supporters have claimed that he was cheated of victory by fraud, but so far those baseless allegations have failed to gain traction in court.

REUTERS

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