By Victor Reklaitis, MarketWatch
Democratic presidential front-runner Joe Biden was in work-from-home mode on Monday, as he criticized President Donald Trump’s coronavirus response in a webcast from his house in Delaware.
“The president needs to set the right priorities for economic response. Our guiding principle must be to keep everyone paid through this crisis,” said Biden in his remarks , which were broadcast live on Facebook and Twitter.
“Unfortunately, as of last night, President Trump and Mitch McConnell were offering a plan to let big corporations off the hook. They proposed a $500 billion slush fund for corporations with almost no conditions,” the former vice president added, referring to the Republican-run Senate’s majority leader.
Democrats and Republicans in Washington have been working to reach a deal on a major congressional stimulus package to fight the economic impact of the coronavirus causing the disease COVID-19, with negotiations continuing Monday after a test vote on the massive package failed Sunday night in the Senate. Republicans have sought to provide $500 billion for the Treasury to make loans or investments to support businesses, while Democrats want provisions such as expanding unemployment insurance to four months at 100% pay and increasing aid to hospitals.
Biden said the GOP plan would allow companies that receive aid to buy back stocks and increase executive pay “if that’s what the secretary of Treasury decided,” and corporations “wouldn’t have to make commitments to keep workers employed.”
The former vice president appeared set to make these webcasts regularly. A Biden donor asked him at a fundraising event on Sunday if supporters could “get more” of him and less Trump “on our airwaves,” and Biden responded that his staff had “converted a recreation room” in his house into a TV studio and starting Monday he would making his “first presentation.”
In Monday’s webcast, Biden said Trump is “not to blame for the coronavirus, but he does bear responsibility for our response, and I along with every American hope he steps up and starts to get this right.” He said the president's daily briefings should not be “a place for political attacks,” and he said it’s “just not accurate” for Trump to have said that “nobody saw this coming.”
“My point is not simply that the president was wrong,” Biden said. “My point is that the mindset that was slow to recognize the problem in the first place, to treat it with the seriousness it deserved, is still too much a part of how the president is addressing the problem.”
Trump’s re-election campaign was quick to criticize Biden’s moves on Monday, with campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh tweeting that the Democratic contender is saying “he’d be quicker to respond to a pandemic, but it took him a week to set up a TV camera in his house.” Trump’s team also highlighted a clip from the address that they said showed Biden losing his train of thought during the speech and signaling to his staff.
In the battle to become the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee, Biden has 1,169 delegates vs. 860 for Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, according to an NBC News tracker . The Sanders campaign, which is facing pressure to end, held a virtual town hall on Sunday night that featured the senator and three prominent congresswomen who support his White House bid — Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib.
Before his webcast, Biden sent a letter on Monday morning to the Trump administration and a number of state attorneys general asking them to drop their long-running lawsuit against Obamacare. The letter noted that Monday marked the 10th anniversary of former President Barack Obama signing the Affordable Care Act into law, as it said that “no American should have the added worry right now that you are in court trying to take away their health care.”
U.S. stocks /zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime SPX -1.12% /zigman2/quotes/210598065/realtime DJIA -0.88% have been hammered repeatedly this month by coronavirus-related worries, and they were falling again Monday.