President-elect Biden addresses COVID-19 bill, holiday pandemic precautions

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WILMINGTON, Del. (NewsNation Now) — President-elect Joe Biden on Tuesday expressed empathy with struggling families and applauded Congress for passing the coronavirus relief bill as the nation deals with an increase of COVID-19 cases that are casting a shadow over the Christmas holiday.

He called out to frontline workers, scientists, researchers, clinical trial participants, and those with deployed family members during the holiday season.

“Our hearts are always with you — keep the faith,” he said in a year-end address from Wilmington, Delaware.

The president-elect praised the compromise stimulus bill emerging from Congress but made it clear he sees it as a down payment on a much larger package of relief he will try to get approved once he takes office.

“One thing I promise you about my leadership during this crisis, I’m going to tell it to you straight. I’m gonna tell you the truth. And here’s the simple truth: Our darkest days in this battle against COVID are ahead of us, not behind us. So, we need to prepare ourselves and steel our spines,” Biden said.

The larger stimulus he envisions next year would include money to vaccinate 300 million people by the end of 2021, aid the unemployed and protect renters and homeowners from eviction, provide all the protections businesses need to reopen and stay open, and to develop new jobs in the post-pandemic era.

Noting the ways that the pandemic has altered his own holiday celebrations, which typically include up to two dozen relatives, Biden said, “not this year.”

“This season of reflection carries a much deeper meaning than it usually does,” Biden said, encouraging Americans to continue to take precautions to try to stem the spread of the virus, which has now killed more than 320,000 people in the United States. “Jill and I send our prayers, as I’m sure all of you do, to all that are facing this dark winter.”

The day before, Biden got vaccinated on live television as part of an effort to reassure people that the COVID-19 vaccine is safe.

“I look forward to the second shot, and I have absolute confidence in the vaccine,” Biden said. “But we’re in short supply.”

On the $900 billion coronavirus aid bill passed by Congress on Monday, Biden called the bill a “down payment” on a broader relief bill he plans to introduce when he takes office in January.

“Like all compromises, this is far from perfect,” Biden said. “Congress did their job this week, and I can and I must ask them to do it again next year.”

In a video posted to Twitter Tuesday evening, President Donald Trump criticized the bill as a “disgrace,” and called on Congress to amend the current COVID-19 relief bill, saying he wants $600 direct payments to be increased to $2,000.

Trump has not said when he intends to get the shot, but White House staff pledged he will do so when his team determines it’s best. Senior U.S. health officials, including Dr. Anthony Fauci and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, received the vaccine Tuesday.

On Tuesday, Biden appointed Bruce Reed, who formerly served as his chief of staff when he was vice president, as deputy chief of staff. He also named Elizabeth Wilkins as the senior adviser to the chief of staff. Wilkins is currently working in a similar role on the Biden-Harris transition team.

The president-elect also named Anne Filipic as director of management and administration; Ryan Montoya as director of scheduling and advance; Gautam Raghavan as deputy director of the Office of Presidential Personnel; and Vinay Reddy as director of speechwriting.

Filipic recently served as chief operating officer and chief program officer at the Obama Foundation. Before that, she led Enroll America, a national coalition that aims to enroll and retain healthcare coverage through the Affordable Care Act. She had also served in the Obama-Biden administration as deputy director of public engagement.

Montoya had served as director of scheduling and advance for Harris on their campaign. Prior to that, he had worked as chief technology officer for the NBA’s Sacramento Kings, and formerly worked in the Obama-Biden administration.

Raghavan serves on the transition team as deputy head of presidential appointments. He recently worked as chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

Reddy worked for both the transition team and the Biden-Harris campaign in roles involving speechwriting. He also had served as chief speechwriter to Vice President Biden in the second term of the Obama-Biden White House.

“These experienced individuals are joining my administration to carry out policies that will put our nation on a path to building back better than ever before,” Biden said in a statement. “They are respected leaders whose values and priorities align with my own and who will dutifully execute their roles to serve the American people.”

President Trump does not have any scheduled events on Tuesday, nor has he announced plans for holiday remarks.

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