'Immediate relief': Biden introduces Cabinet secretaries with plea for Congress to move quickly on COVID relief




  • In Politics
  • 2021-01-08 21:20:09Z
  • By USA TODAY

President-elect Joe Biden introduced an additional four members of his economic team Friday, as the government announced the economy lost 140,000 jobs in December, by saying the need for relief is urgent and job creation is crucial.

Biden chose Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo to serve as his secretary of the Commerce Department and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh to become secretary of the Labor Department. Biden also picked Isabel Guzman to head the Small Business Administration and Don Graves as deputy secretary of Commerce.

Biden said he would unveil his legislative package Thursday for the COVID-19 recovery. He said he is focused on curbing the virus, distributing the vaccines and rebuilding the economy.

"We're going to direct relief to those businesses that have been so badly hit, hit the hardest," Biden said from The Queen theater in Wilmington, Delaware. "We owe them that support, to help them get through to the other side of this crisis."

After introducing Judge Merrick Garland as his choice for attorney general on Thursday, Biden has now picked nominees to lead all federal departments. Biden hasn't named someone to lead the CIA, but Biden said he has completed his 24-member Cabinet.

President-elect Joe Biden speaks at The Queen theater in Wilmington, Delaware on Jan.
President-elect Joe Biden speaks at The Queen theater in Wilmington, Delaware on Jan.  

Biden has asked the Senate to move quickly on confirmations after his inauguration Jan. 20 and hearings for some have been scheduled. He said the secretaries of State, Defense, Treasury and Homeland Security must be confirmed quickly.

"Given what our country has through for the last four years, the last few days, given the threats and risks in this world, they should be confirmed as close to Jan. 20 as possible," Biden said. "We have no time to lose with regard to the entire team."

Biden's announcement came as the Labor Department announced Friday that employers cut 140,000 jobs in December, the first decline in payrolls since April. The economy has about 10 million fewer jobs than before the COVID-19 pandemic began a year ago, leaving President Donald Trump as the first chief executive since former President Herbert Hoover during the Great Depression 90 years ago to lose jobs during his term.

"The bottom line is that the jobs report shows we need to provide for immediate relief for working families and businesses now, not just to get to the other side of this painful crisis, but a larger purpose, to avoid a broader economic cost that exists out there, due to long-term unemployment, homeless and business failings," Biden said.

President-elect Joe Biden
President-elect Joe Biden's nominee for secretary of Commerce, Rhode Island Gov.  

Raimondo, Rhode Island's first female governor, helped the state recover from the worst unemployment rate of any state in the nation. She launched workforce training programs like what Biden has advocated. And she expanded clean energy jobs, another Biden priority.

If confirmed, Walsh would be the first union member to serve as Labor secretary in nearly half a century. As mayor, he fought for a $15 minimum wage and paid family leave, two Biden goals. And as chairman of a group of 470 "climate mayors," Walsh promoted job creation by investing in clean energy.

Biden said he considered former campaign rival Sen. Bernie Sanders for the post, but didn't want to risk Democratic control of the Senate to have him. Runoffs pending certification in Georgia resulted in a Senate evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats, which will allow Vice President-elect Kamala Harris to break ties in Biden's favor.

"I'm confident he could have done a fantastic job," Biden said of Sanders. "I can think of no more passionate, devoted ally to work with people in this country."

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh delivers remarks after U.
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh delivers remarks after U.  

But Biden said he and Sanders agreed that it wasn't worth putting control of the Senate at risk with a special election. Sanders, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, represents Vermont, which has a Republican governor to appoint his successor.

"We agreed we'll work closely on our shared agenda of increasing worker power and protecting the dignity of work for all working people," Biden said of Sanders.

Guzman is director of California's Office of the Small Business Advocate, where she works with entrepreneurs to help them weather the pandemic. The former entrepreneur has been a former senior adviser and deputy chief of staff at the agency.

When Detroit faced bankruptcy, Graves coordinated the federal response for the Obama administration by working with city, state, business and community leaders. He is the Treasury Department's former deputy assistant secretary for small business, community development and housing policy.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Biden introduces Commerce, Labor secretaries with plea for economic aid

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