Biden urges Congress to approve Covid relief package

Investigators in New York reported to have stepped up their inquiry into Trump tax affairs

Jill Biden, wife of the president-elect, joins Operation Gratitude as she assembles care packages for deployed US troops, on Friday, in Washington. Photograph: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

Jill Biden, wife of the president-elect, joins Operation Gratitude as she assembles care packages for deployed US troops, on Friday, in Washington. Photograph: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

 

President-elect Joe Biden urged Congress to approve a new Covid relief package, as he warned that Americans are suffering economically from the pandemic that has claimed close to 300,000 lives.

“Millions and millions of Americans simply can’t wait any longer,” he said at a press conference in Delaware, urging the US House of Representatives and Senate to agree a package before the Christmas recess.

While Congress yesterday signed off on a massive defence spending Bill, overriding threats by President Donald Trump to veto the legislation, it has yet to agree to a new Covid package to replace the $2.2 trillion federal relief deal agreed in March, known as the CARES Act.

Democrats and Republicans have clashed over the scope of any new relief programme, which may include direct cheques for Americans as the pandemic continues to constrain the US economy and labour market.

Familiar faces

Mr Biden unveiled more members of his cabinet and senior officials at yesterday’s press conference, many of whom held roles in the Obama administration. The incoming president’s decision to tap many familiar faces has prompted criticism that Mr Biden has failed to follow through on his promise to engage with a new generation of Democrats.

Introducing the team, the president-elect referenced his personal connections and experience working with some of his top nominees, including former US ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice, who will be head of the Domestic Policy Council, and Denis McDonough, former chief of staff to Barack Obama, his nominee for Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

Mr Biden’s pick for US Trade Representative, Katherine Tai, spoke about her experience as the child of Chinese immigrants, recalling her pride at representing the United States in a case against China at the World Trade Organization in Geneva.

Ms Rice said she was “honored and excited” to take on the domestic policy role, which does not require Senate confirmation. Today, the American dream is an “empty promise”, she said. “That is not good enough for any American.

Hunter Biden

It was Mr Biden’s first public appearance since news emerged that his son Hunter is being investigated for his tax affairs, though he did not take questions from reporters. The US attorney’s office in Delaware is investigating the incoming president’s son, whose work for foreign entities in China and Ukraine has already been the target of attacks from Republicans.

The federal investigation into the younger Biden’s tax affairs presents a challenge for Mr Biden as he prepares to take office. Several Republicans have called for a special counsel to be appointed.

“If there were ever circumstances that created a conflict of interest and called for a special counsel, I think those circumstances are present here,” Senator Tom Cotton said, claiming that the Biden family had been “trading on Joe Biden’s public office for 50 years”.

Hunter Biden has said he is confident he has handled his affairs “legally and appropriately, including with the benefit of professional tax advisers”.  The former vice-president said in a statement this week that he is “deeply proud” of his son, noting the recent political and personal attacks against him.

Tax affairs

Meanwhile, investigators in New York stepped up their probe into President Donald Trump’s tax affairs, according to a New York Times report. Prosecutors from the Manhattan district attorney’s office have interviewed employees of Mr Trump’s lender Deutsche Bank and insurance company Aon in recent weeks, the report states, indicating that their investigation into Mr Trump’s business affairs is intensifying.

The president’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, was questioned by investigators last week over her role in his inaugural committee following his election. Ms Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, have reportedly bought a $30 million site in Miami as they prepare to leave Washington after four years of working for the outgoing president.