Meeting with Schumer and Pelosi, Biden focuses on virus and economics

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WASHINGTON – President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. announced new staff appointments on Friday and met with President Nancy Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the minority leader, maintaining his focus on the economy and the coronavirus pandemic while ignoring that of President Trump. continued efforts to overturn election results.

Democratic leaders gathered in Wilmington, Del., For their first face-to-face meeting since the election to “discuss their common priorities to provide immediate help to struggling working families and small businesses,” they said. stated in a joint press release.

In a brief photoshoot with reporters, Mr Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris were seated with Ms Pelosi and Mr Schumer at a large rectangular table, all wearing masks and several yards away from one of the the other.

“In my Oval Office, me casa, vous casa,” Mr. Biden joked, drawing laughter from others. “I hope we are going to spend a lot of time together.”

Friday was Mr Biden’s 78th birthday and Ms Pelosi presented the president-elect with a white orchid to celebrate, according to an aide.

None of the Democrats said anything more substantial to reporters, but in a joint statement afterwards they said they “agreed that Congress should adopt a bipartisan emergency aid package during the lame duck session, ”including money to fight the coronavirus and support the fight. families, businesses, and state and local governments.

Mr Biden had discussed his agenda for the first 100 days of his presidency, including to “contain” the coronavirus and restore the economy, in what the statement called “the mandate of the American people to act.”

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The statement made no reference to Mr. Trump’s false statements about the election, a day after Mr. Biden called them “totally irresponsible.” Jen Psaki and Yohannes Abraham, speaking for the Biden-Harris transition, were measured on the subject during a briefing for reporters, saying they were “rushing forward” but avoiding provocative language that would escalate tensions.

The message of discipline emerged in line with the Biden campaign’s winning strategy of refusing to engage with Mr. Trump’s theaters and portraying the president-elect as a consistent figure focused on the pandemic.

But highlighting the strange limbo created by Mr Trump, Mr Biden on Friday posted on twitter a call for private donations to finance its transition activities. “Here’s the deal: because President Trump refuses to concede and delays the transition, we have to fund it ourselves and need your help,” he wrote. Clicking on the link takes you to a form hosted by ActBlue, a Democratic network, which suggests donations of $ 15 to $ 5,000, although users can donate any amount.

Ms Psaki and Mr Abraham reiterated calls for General Service Administration chief Emily W. Murphy to approve documents that would begin a formal presidential transition and give Mr Biden and his staff access resources, data and personnel.

“This is not a game,” said Mr. Abraham, noting that a growing number of business groups and leaders, such as the leaders of the American Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers, had recently called to the process of transition to begin.

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When asked if the Biden team has had any contact with officials in the Trump administration, as some reports have indicated, Ms Psaki said, “We would certainly like to have that commitment.”

But, she added, the transition team “has of course been very careful to follow these rules and guidelines, and we will have to adhere to them until the verification occurs.”

The term “finding” refers to the point at which General Service Administration concludes that the election has produced a winner and that a transition can begin.

Mr Biden has spoken on several occasions in recent days of the urgent need for Congress to agree on a new stimulus spending plan, saying Senate Republicans should drop their opposition to a measure passed by Democrats in the Room last month. He made no public suggestion that Democrats should change their position and come up with new compromise legislation.

Ms Psaki said Mr Biden had also spoken to “elected officials on both sides of the aisle”. When asked if this included Congressional Republicans, who Biden said he hoped to break ranks to challenge Mr. Trump’s election demands and compromise on stimulus spending, she gave no more. details.

Mr. Biden also announced four other appointments to his White House staff.

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Catherine M. Russell will be the director of the White House Presidential Personnel Office. During the Obama administration, Ms. Russell served as Chief of Staff to Jill Biden, then Second Lady, and United States Ambassador for Global Women’s Issues at the State Department. She is married to former national security adviser to former President Barack Obama, Tom Donilon, who is the brother of Mr. Biden’s chief political strategist Mike Donilon, and who could also land a big job in the ‘administration.

The White House Office of Legislative Affairs will be Louisa Terrell, former special assistant for legislative affairs to Mr. Obama and former Capitol Hill aide whose jobs included the chief of staff to Senator Cory Booker, Democrat of New Jersey.

Ms Biden’s director of policy will be Mala Adiga, a lawyer who has held a similar role in the Biden-Harris campaign and has dealt with women’s and human rights issues at the State Department and the National Security Council under the leadership of Mr. Obama.

The social secretary of the White House will be Carlos Elizondo, who was the social secretary of the Bidens during the Obama administration and the first Hispanic American to hold the post. The position includes planning and management of official White House events, including state dinners.

Transition officials have not given any details on when the team may announce further staff appointments, including the first candidates for Mr Biden’s cabinet.

Nicholas Fandos contributed reporting.

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