House Speaker Nancy Pelosi slammed congressional Republicans for "refusing to accept reality" by declining to acknowledge President-elect Joe Biden's victory and said their focus on propping up President Trump is distracting them from addressing the coronavirus pandemic.
"They're engaged in an absurd circus right now, refusing to accept reality," Pelosi said in a joint press conference with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on Thursday. "Stop the circus and get to work on what really matters to the American people — their health and their economic security."
Schumer characterized Republicans' refusal to accept the election results as a performance intended to please an "audience of one" — Mr. Trump. He urged Republicans to "stop their shenanigans."
"The election is over. It wasn't close. President Trump lost. Joe Biden will be the next president of the United States," Schumer said. "Senate Republicans: Stop denying reality. Stop deliberately and recklessly sowing doubt about our democratic process. And start focusing on COVID."
Although Pelosi said that Mr. Biden's electoral victory gave him a "mandate" in addressing the pandemic, most Senate Republicans do not share that view. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell last week renewed his call for Congress to pass a targeted $500 billion relief proposal, which Democrats say is insufficient to address the crisis at hand. Senate Democrats have twice blocked that bill.
McConnell reiterated to reporters that he was disinterested in a larger bill on Thursday.
"My view is the level at which the economy is improving further underscores that we need to do something at about the amount that we put on the floor in September and October," McConnell said. "I gather she and the Democratic leader in the Senate still are looking at something dramatically larger. That's not a place I think we're willing to go. But I do think there needs to another package."
On Thursday, Schumer called the Republican bill "emaciated," and implied that it's still a nonstarter for congressional Democrats. The House passed a bill costing over $2 trillion in the fall, but Senate Republicans have refused to consider it. Meanwhile, Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin engaged in negotiations over a relief bill throughout October, but were unable to reach an agreement on key provisions such as funding for state and local governments.
Pelosi denounced Republicans' response to the virus on Thursday.
"It's like the house is burning down, and they just refuse to throw water on it," Pelosi said.
With both parties so far apart on coronavirus relief, it is looking increasingly unlikely that a coronavirus relief bill will pass during the lame-duck session. Meanwhile, Senate Republicans are focused on two runoff elections in Georgia that will determine who controls the Senate. Republicans currently have a 50-48 advantage in the Senate, and winning the runoffs in Georgia would enable them them to retain the majority. If Democrats win both seats, they would have a slim majority in the Senate, with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris casting the tie-breaking vote.
More than 240,000 Americans have died from coronavirus, and the U.S. has been breaking records on cases reported.