Speaking to reporters on Monday, Biden said, “Look, as my chief of staff Ron Klain said when he handled ebola, a vaccine is important. It is of little use until people are vaccinated. So how do we get the vaccine? How do we get over 300 million Americans vaccinated? It is a huge, huge undertaking.”
Biden said that the Trump administration has said that its Operation Warp Speed program maps out how to create a vaccine and how to distribute it, but “If we have to wait until January 20th to start that planning, it puts us behind, over a month and a half. It is important that there be coordination now.”
Trump has so far refused to concede the election, even though networks declared Biden the winner on November 7. His administration also has withheld transition funds and cooperation.
Biden said that Trump’s refusal to concede was “no change in his modus operandi.”
He said that he was speaking to world leaders and “so we we are moving along knowing what the outcome will be.”
“I find this more embarrassing for the country than debilitating for my ability to get started,” Biden said.
Biden spoke after he and Kamala Harris, the vice president elect, met with business and labor leaders to talk about restoring the economy.
Biden urged Congress to pass a COVID-19 relief package like the HEROES Act, the $3 trillion bill that the House passed in May, followed by approval of a slimmed down, $2.2 trillion version in October. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to bring the legislation to the floor, while negotiations between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the White House have stalled.
“The idea that the president is playing golf and not doing anything about it is beyond my comprehension,” Biden said. “You’d at least think he’d want to go off on a positive note.” He said that the needs of state and local governments, struggling with massive shortfalls, are particularly acute.
If no relief package is passed during the lame duck session, Biden still would likely face Senate opposition if Republicans retain the majority after the Jan. 5 runoff elections in Georgia. Democrats have to win both Senate seats to achieve a 50-50 tie, with Harris casting the deciding vote.
McConnell has indicated that a COVID-19 relief package would have to be much smaller, in the $1 trillion range. Even then, he likely would have opposition from his own members.
Biden also warned that, even though there is progress on a vaccine, Americans are still facing a “very dark winter,” as coronavirus cases spike around the country and states have reversed reopening guidelines. “Things are going to get much tougher before they get easier,” Biden said.
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