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Biden discusses inauguration plans and says he's confident Congress will pass COVID relief bills

Biden pushes Congress to provide COVID-19 relief
Biden pushes Congress to provide relief for out-of-work Americans 02:09

President-elect Joe Biden called November's disappointing jobs report "grim" but said that if Congress acts now, "we can regain momentum." At a news conference Friday in Wilmington, Mr. Biden expressed optimism about the possibility of a bipartisan congressional deal on a short-term COVID economic relief bill — as well as a more ambitious measure once he's in office. And he also contemplated his upcoming inauguration and how it will differ from those in the past. 

Mr. Biden said he was confident "there are a sufficient number of Democrats and Republicans" in Congress "to put together a serious package that will keep us from going off the edge here." He acknowledged "it's not going to satisfy everybody, but the option is, if you insist on everything, we're likely to get nothing on both sides." 

But he also stressed that a short-term measure "is not the end of the deal" and characterized the package being negotiated now as a "down payment," though he did not elaborate on what else may be negotiated. 

Although a new $1,200 stimulus payment for Americans is not currently included in the $900 billion bipartisan proposal introduced this week, Mr. Biden said, "I think it would be better if they had the $1,200" and said he understands "that may be still in play." However, he shifted to emphasize that the "whole purpose of this" is to ensure people are not evicted and can continue to have unemployment insurance to help them feed their families, as a number of programs to help struggling Americans are scheduled to terminate without congressional action this month.

Biden says he's "confident" in a bipartisan deal on economic stimulus 07:34

The president-elect would not say whether he's spoken to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, but he sought to emphasize he has a history of negotiating with him.

"He knows me. He knows I'm a straight as an arrow, and I can negotiate. He knows I keep commitments," Mr. Biden said. "And I never attempt to embarrass the opposition."

"We've got to take the vitriol out of politics," he said. And he reminded reporters of his philosophy that it's "always appropriate to question another man's or woman's judgment, but never their motive. Once you question their motive, then, in fact, there's no way to get to 'go.'"

U.S. hiring slowed sharply last month as the coronavirus battered the economy. Employers added 245,000 jobs in November — the slowest pace of monthly job growth since April, and about half what economists had expected. Payroll gains last month showed a sharp drop from the 610,000 jobs added in October and 710,000 in September. The nation's unemployment rate, which has steadily declined since peaking at nearly 15% in April, ticked down to 6.7%. But it fell for a bad reason — 400,000 people stopped looking for work, meaning they were no longer counted as unemployed. 

Mr. Biden was also asked about what his inauguration will look like, as the COVID pandemic shows no sign of abating going into the cold winter months. He said he planned to follow the recommendations fo scientific experts in keeping people safe. 

Biden says Inauguration Day events may look different due to pandemic 03:02

"It is highly unlikely we'll have a million people on the mall going all the way down to the (Lincoln) Memorial," the president-elect said. And there "probably will not be a gigantic inaugural parade on Pennsylvania Avenue." There would be, he hopes, "a lot of virtual activity in states all across America, engaging even more people than before."

He said there would be discussions with the House and Senate, but speculated that it would look more like the socially distanced Democratic convention than a typical inauguration. Mr. Biden said he wants Americans to be able "to celebrate and to see one another celebrate." 

"People want to be able to say 'we passed the baton. We're moving on. Democracy is functioning,'" Mr. Biden said, adding that much of the celebration will "have to be more imaginative."

— CBS News' Irina Ivanova contributed to this report.

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