The country’s economy, like the nation’s politics, is queasily suspended between the Trump and Biden administrations — at a moment when the rampaging pandemic has prompted deep concerns over the strength, timing and even likelihood of a possible recovery next year.
On Tuesday, President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. will try to inject a sense of urgency — and stability — into a chaotic postelection environment by formally introducing his economic team whose governing philosophy marks a stark departure from President Trump’s low-tax, low-regulation approach.
The new team, led by Mr. Biden’s pick for Treasury Secretary, Janet L. Yellen, the former Fed chair, will emphasize the need to immediately help households and businesses stay afloat amid the pandemic through the use of emergency appropriations and other forms of federal assistance, Biden aides have said.
This message — that fast action on a new coronavirus stimulus bill is required to keep the country from sliding back into recession — will be the central theme of Mr. Biden’s appearance in Wilmington, Del., on Tuesday.
And it was preceded by Federal Reserve Chair Jerome H. Powell who early Tuesday warned Congress that “the outlook for the economy is extraordinarily uncertain” without an effort to bridge the dangerous transition by limiting the spread of the virus and supporting the economy.
Mr. Trump’s outgoing Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin, offered a much less dire assessment of the economy in his prepared remarks before the Senate Banking Committee, echoing Mr. Trump’s oft-repeated and much-disputed claim that the greatest threat to growth are lockdowns intended to stem the spread of a coronavirus that is currently killing more than 1,000 Americans a day.
Yet there were signs that the two sides were attempting to bridge the gap. Mr. Mnuchin told reporters he was planning to reach out to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi after his morning at the committee table to discuss negotiations over another virus relief package that have been kick-started by a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers who fear the economic toll of the pandemic’s winter wave.
A bipartisan group of senators, led by Susan Collins, a Republican of Maine, and Joe Manchin a Democrat from West Virginia, unveiled the blueprint for a $900 billion stopgap stimulus package later in the day.
The plan would provide $300 a week in federal unemployment benefits for 18 weeks, half of what Democrats have sought, and it includes $160 billion in funding for state and local governments, much less than the $500 billion Democrats had previoiusly proposed, which congressional Republicans and the White House had firmly rejected.
In his testimony, Mr. Mnuchin proposed spending an additional $300 billion on relief — a move that was instantly attacked as insufficient by Democratic members of the panel.
“I continue to believe that a targeted fiscal package is the most appropriate federal response,” Mr. Mnuchin said on Tuesday. “The administration is standing ready to support Congress in this effort to help American workers and small businesses.”
Yet even as most congressional Republicans refuse to publicly acknowledge Mr. Biden’s victory, many in the party are starting to privately adjust to negotiating with a Biden team whose coordinated activity represents a sharp break from Mr. Mnuchin’s approach that had often involved back-room diplomacy with Democrats beyond the reach of his volatile boss.
In addition to Ms. Yellen, Mr. Biden has tapped Jared Bernstein, a longtime economic adviser in the Obama administration who worked on the massive 2009 stimulus effort, and Heather Boushey, who has studied the impact of income inequality, as part of his team. Cecilia Rouse, another progressive adviser, will be formally announced as to head Mr. Biden’s Council of Economic Advisers.
The chair of the Federal Reserve and the secretary of the Treasury painted starkly different visions of the challenges facing the United States economy in the months ahead on Tuesday, further exposing a rift that began to show last month.
While Jerome H. Powell, the Fed Chair, pointed to ongoing uncertainty over vaccine speed and distribution, the economic dangers of a surge in virus cases and the grim reality that many remain out of work while testifying before the Senate Banking Committee, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin painted a sunnier image of the economic recovery, emphasizing state and local lockdowns as the main threat to growth.
The contrast underlines the divide between two economic policymakers who, earlier in the crisis, worked closely as partners to usher in a sweeping economic response.
That cooperation has cracked. Mr. Mnuchin announced in November that he would end several Fed emergency loan programs, which are meant to keep credit flowing to state and local governments and medium-sized businesses alike. Now, the pair are voicing starkly different economic diagnoses.
Mr. Mnuchin touted the strength of the economic recovery and blamed continuing economic shutdowns in some parts of the country for impairing progress, saying those are causing “great harm” to American businesses and workers.
The Treasury secretary pointed to fact that many jobs have come back and said the unemployment rate had dropped far faster than many had expected. While he agreed that some industries, like restaurants, need support, he reiterated that any additional fiscal spending should be “targeted.”
Mr. Powell warned that ”the outlook for the economy is extraordinarily uncertain” given the ongoing surge in virus cases. He said the winter could be a “tough few months” and small firms might go out of business, even though the economy might rebound strongly in the medium-term as a vaccine becomes available.
“We do have a long way to go,” Mr. Powell said, noting that 10 million people remain out of work and that it is possible to both acknowledge the progress and pay attention to the remaining gap. “We’ll use our tools until the danger is well and truly past, and it may require help from other parts of government as well, including Congress.”
The Fed Chair reiterated that positive clinical trial results for several vaccine candidates spell good news for the medium term, but warned that there are still big risks on the horizon, including related to the vaccine.
“For now, significant challenges and uncertainties remain, including timing, production and distribution, and efficacy across different groups,” Mr. Powell said.
Their testimony came as a bipartisan group of lawmakers unveiled a $900 billion rescue package that Senator Mark Warner, Democrat of Virginia, called the “best effort” to reach a framework that both Democrats and Republicans can agree upon.
Asked by Mr. Warner if they believed this type of package was needed, both Mr. Powell and Mr. Mnuchin agreed some form of additional support was needed.
“It sounds like you’re hitting a lot of the areas that could definitely benefit,” Mr. Powell said.
“We all believe that there should be targeted, fiscal response,” Mr. Mnuchin said, adding that he would be speaking to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Tuesday afternoon.
President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris are set to introduce key members of their economic team on Tuesday, as they prepare to assume the White House at a moment when the economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic is slowing and millions remain out of work.
The nominees are expected to speak in detail about their biographies, continuing an effort by Mr. Biden’s selections to lean on personal stories to make a case for confirmation in a Senate where several Republicans have already promised a rough road for Mr. Biden’s picks.
Mr. Biden is poised to enter the White House at a time of national crisis amid the worsening virus outbreak. The Department of Labor and Department of Commerce have reported an increase in applications for state jobless benefits and a decrease in personal income. Coronavirus cases have soared in recent weeks, a development that Federal Reserve Chair Jerome H. Powell called “concerning” in testimony before lawmakers on Tuesday, saying it “could prove challenging in the next few months.”
Mr. Biden has warned of a “very dark winter” ahead and called on Congress to pass relief to help workers, businesses, and state and local governments. Mr. Biden’s advisers are preparing for what could be another economic downturn in early 2021. But another economic stimulus package has languished in Congress, where Democrats and Republicans have been unable to reach a deal, though leaders of both parties have called for compromise in recent days.
A bipartisan group of senators rolled out a potential compromise plan on Tuesday morning that appeared to fit the contours of what Mr. Biden, Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, have said must frame any stimulus deal in Washington. They include additional aid to the unemployed and small businesses, along with money to help state and local governments patch budget holes that have been ripped open during the pandemic.
Tuesday’s slate of nominees and appointees includes several women in top economic roles. The selections, markedly different from Mr. Trump’s cabinet, which has been overwhelmingly white and male, follow Mr. Biden’s campaign promise to build an administration that looks like America.
He has chosen Cecilia Rouse to lead the Council of Economic Advisers; she would be the first Black woman in the role. Ms. Rouse is a Princeton economist who worked on the Council of Economic Advisers during part of the Obama era and on the White House’s National Economic Council during the Clinton administration.
His pick for the Office of Management and Budget — Neera Tanden, the chief executive of the Center for American Progress — would be the first Indian-American to lead the office if confirmed. Mr. Biden also selected Janet L. Yellen, a former Federal Reserve chair, to be his Treasury Secretary. If confirmed, she would be the first woman to fill the position.
Ms. Tanden has met immediate resistance from Republican senators who have criticized her for attacking Republicans publicly, including on her Twitter feed. She previewed the group’s likely emphasis on personal stories in a Twitter post on Monday, after her nomination was announced: “After my parents were divorced when I was young, my mother relied on public food and housing programs to get by,” she wrote. “Now, I’m being nominated to help ensure those programs are secure, and ensure families like mine can live with dignity.”
Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris are also scheduled to announce their picks for deputy treasury secretary, Adewale Adeyemo, and members of the Council of Economic Advisers, Jared Bernstein and Heather Boushey.
Mr. Adeyemo served as a senior international economic adviser under former President Barack Obama, and Mr. Bernstein was Mr. Biden’s first chief economist when he was vice president. Ms. Boushey, a top policy adviser to Hillary Clinton in 2016, leads the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, a liberal think tank focused on inequality.
The introductions will follow a similar event last week, when Mr. Biden publicly introduced members of his foreign policy and national security team.
Rudolph W. Giuliani, President Trump’s lawyer who has led the most extensive efforts to damage his client’s political rivals and undermine the election results, discussed with the president as recently as last week the possibility of receiving a pre-emptive pardon before Mr. Trump leaves office, according to two people told of the discussion.
It was not clear who raised the topic. The men have also talked previously about a pardon for Mr. Giuliani, according to the people. Mr. Trump has not indicated what he will do, one of the people said.
Mr. Giuliani’s potential criminal exposure is unclear. He was under investigation as recently as last summer by federal prosecutors in Manhattan for his business dealings in Ukraine and his role in ousting the American ambassador there, a plot that was at the heart of the impeachment of Mr. Trump.
Mr. Giuliani did not respond to a message seeking comment. Christianne Allen, his spokeswoman, said, “Mayor Giuliani cannot comment on any discussions that he has with his client.”
Mr. Giuliani’s lawyer, Robert Costello, said, “He’s not concerned about this investigation, because he didn’t do anything wrong and that’s been our position from Day 1.”
A spokeswoman for Mr. Trump did not respond to an email seeking comment.
Such a broad pardon pre-empting any charge or conviction is highly unusual but does have precedent. George Washington pardoned plotters of the Whiskey Rebellion, shielding them from treason prosecutions. In the most famous example, Gerald R. Ford pardoned Richard M. Nixon for all of his actions as president. Jimmy Carter pardoned thousands of American men who illegally avoided the draft for the Vietnam War.
Mr. Trump has wielded his clemency powers liberally in cases that resonate with him personally or for people who have a direct line to him through friends or family, while thousands of other cases await his review.
Last week he pardoned his former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn broadly for potential legal troubles beyond the charge he had faced of lying to federal investigators. The move raised expectations that Mr. Trump will bestow clemency on other associates in his final weeks in office.
Jeffrey D. Zients, the former head of the Obama administration’s National Economic Council, has emerged as an important power center as a co-chairman of the Biden transition team and is currently a top candidate to be the coronavirus czar, a role in which he would steer the government’s response to the pandemic that has wrought financial hardship across the country.
Progressives are concerned that his recent role leading an investment fund, Cranemere, and his two years sitting on the board of Facebook, would make him sympathetic to corporate America. His role as a bridge to business during the Obama administration has raised some eyebrows as well since he was one of the administration’s chief liaisons to executives and lobbyists when anger at Wall Street over the 2007-8 financial crisis was still at its peak. Top lobbyists such as the Business Roundtable and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have praised Mr. Zients as someone who heard them out.
In a sign of the pushback to come, the advocacy group Revolving Door Project has been urging Mr. Biden to keep corporate influence out of his administration and has compiled a 13-page document about Mr. Zients. The file highlights his wealth, his appetite for deficit reduction during the Obama years and his recent work as chief executive of Cranemere.
Early in his career, Mr. Zients worked as a consultant at Bain & Company before joining the Advisory Board Company, a health care research and consulting firm, where he rose to chief executive.
Jeff Hauser, the director of the Revolving Door Project, said that while he sees Mr. Zients’s experience in the health care industry as useful for managing the pandemic response, he was concerned that Mr. Zients could be too accommodating to business as vaccines are rolled out next year.
The pre-emptive resistance to Mr. Zients (pronounced ZYE-ents) from the left is the latest indication of how the Democratic Party has shifted in the dozen years since former President Barack Obama took office amid a financial crisis. Now, business and finance experience can turn otherwise qualified White House candidates into pariahs for progressives.
The stage being built on the West Front of the Capitol can hold 1,600 spectators for a close-up view of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. as he takes the oath of office. The reviewing stand under construction in front of the White House will be ready for the inaugural parade and thousands of cheering onlookers as the marchers pass by. And the National Mall is prepared to accommodate many more.
But the traditional pomp and circumstance of America’s quadrennial version of a coronation is colliding with the grim reality of a pandemic that is likely to still be raging on Jan. 20. For that reason, Mr. Biden’s team is signaling that he wants a very different kind of inauguration.
If he had won re-election, President Trump was expected to shrug off the health threats in favor of huge crowds for his inauguration. But Mr. Biden has already indicated that his will not be business as usual. In a statement on Monday, the newly appointed chief executive of Mr. Biden’s inaugural committee hinted at the looming balancing act between health and politics.
“We will honor the American inaugural traditions and engage Americans across the country while keeping everybody healthy and safe,” said Tony Allen, the president of Delaware State University and the committee’s chief executive.
What could that look like?
Aides to the president-elect are being coy. But Mr. Biden’s approach to campaigning during the pandemic — which included drive-in rallies, socially distanced news conferences and a largely virtual national convention — provides a blueprint for how events might be reshaped for the Covid-19 era.
On Capitol Hill, where the official inaugural ceremonies are arranged by a bipartisan congressional committee, lawmakers and aides have quietly been at work since long before the election trying to reimagine what a transfer of power during a pandemic might look like.
The short answer is: quite a bit less crowded.
The organizers are determined that Mr. Biden take the oath of office and deliver an address to the nation outside the West Front of the Capitol, preserving an iconic tableau that has often set the tone for a new presidency. But to make it happen, they are expected to slash the number of officials flanking Mr. Biden.
Those who do make the cut — Supreme Court justices, former presidents, top House and Senate leaders and the Joint Chiefs of Staff among them — will be required to socially distance and wear masks. Some may be asked to take coronavirus tests.
President Trump has raised about $170 million since Election Day as his campaign operation has continued to aggressively solicit donations with hyped-up appeals that have funded his fruitless attempts to overturn the election and that have seeded his post-presidential political ambitions, according to a person familiar with the matter.
The money, much of which was raised in the first week after the election, according to the person, has arrived as Mr. Trump has made false claims about fraud and sought to undermine public confidence in the legitimacy of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory.
Instead of slowing down after the election, Mr. Trump’s campaign has ratcheted up its volume of email solicitations for cash, telling supporters that money was needed for an “Election Defense Fund.”
In reality, the fine print shows that the first 75 percent of every contribution currently goes to a new political action committee that Mr. Trump set up in mid-November, Save America, which can be used to fund his political activities going forward, including staff and travel. The other 25 percent of each donation is directed to the Republican National Committee.
A donor has to give $5,000 to Mr. Trump’s new PAC before any funds go to his recount account.
Still, the Trump campaign continues to urgently ask for cash. On Monday, Mr. Trump signed a campaign email that breathlessly told supporters that the end of November — nearly four weeks after Election Day — represented “our most IMPORTANT deadline EVER.”
Tim Murtaugh, a spokesman for Mr. Trump’s campaign, declined to comment on the fund-raising.
The $170 million figure, raised in less than four weeks, is an enormous sum that rivals the amounts of money brought in at the peak of the campaign. While a breakdown of the money was not immediately available, the deluge of donations would appear to have paid off any remaining Trump campaign debt (in the first days after the election, the fine print showed that contributions were earmarked for that purpose). The money is also likely to provide Mr. Trump with a sizable financial head start in paying for his post-presidency political activities.
Despite the influx of cash, both the Trump campaign and the R.N.C. have reduced the size of their staffs since the election.
With just weeks until the two Georgia runoff elections that will determine the balance of the Senate, progressive groups are pouring resources into the state — on behalf of two candidates who do not share their most ambitious policy goals.
Though the candidates, Jon Ossoff and the Rev. Raphael Warnock, have not endorsed the Green New Deal, the Sunrise Movement, the activist climate group that champions the sweeping climate change plan, is aiming to help register 10,000 to 20,000 Georgians who will turn 18 by Jan. 5, the day of the elections. The Progressive Change Campaign Committee has already raised $386,000 for the two Democratic candidates. MoveOn, a progressive group, hopes to mobilize many of its 250,000 members in Georgia, and more nationwide, to canvass and phone bank in the state.
The furious efforts reflect the urgency that is consuming the Democratic Party’s left flank. Two victories in Georgia would produce a 50-50 tie in the Senate, giving Democrats control of the chamber because Kamala Harris would cast tiebreaking votes as vice president.
“We are moving heaven and earth and pointing all of our resources as much as we can to help us win those two seats in Georgia,” said Jamaal Bowman, a New York Democrat who will join the House in the next term.
Mr. Bowman said he spoke recently with Stacey Abrams, who narrowly lost the Georgia governor’s race in 2018 and is widely credited with voter turnout initiatives that helped flip Georgia blue this year, to see how he could support her efforts. And he said that he and other progressives in the House — including those known as the squad, a now-growing group that began with four congresswomen of color — were strategizing about how to help in Georgia.
But progressives also understand that for decades Georgia has been a Republican stronghold with a large number of conservative voters, and that their efforts there need to be modulated. President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. won the state, many Democrats point out, with a moderate agenda that tempered the rhetoric and policy goals of the left.
Amid deepening ideological fault lines among Democrats over messaging and electoral strategy — divisions that have burst into the open as the party takes stock of its painful losses down the ballot — the two Senate runoff elections will also be a test case for whether progressives can balance their broad calls for change with the realities of campaigning in a once reliably Republican state.
President Trump’s sustained assault on his own party in Georgia, and his repeated claims of election fraud in the state, have intensified worries among Republicans that he could be hurting their ability to win two crucial Senate runoff races next month.
The president has continued to claim without evidence that his loss in the new battleground state was fraudulent, directing his ire in particular at Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, both conservative Republicans, whom he has accused of not doing enough to help him overturn the result.
Over the weekend, he escalated his attacks on Mr. Kemp, saying he was “ashamed” to have endorsed him in 2018, and on Monday he called Mr. Kemp “hapless” on Twitter as he urged him to “overrule his obstinate Republican Secretary of state.’’
Mr. Trump’s broadsides have quietly rattled some Republicans in the state, who fear that concerns about the fairness of the presidential election could depress turnout for the Senate races, which will determine whether Democrats or Republicans control the chamber.
After resisting entreaties to appear in Georgia, the president plans to travel there this weekend, though even some of his own aides remain uncertain whether his anger toward state officials will overshadow any support he may lend the party’s two candidates.
“You can’t say the system is rigged but elect these two senators,” said Eric Johnson, a former Republican leader of the Georgia Senate who is a campaign adviser to Kelly Loeffler, one of the Republican candidates. “At some point he either drops it or he says I want everybody to vote and get their friends to vote so that the margins are so large that they can’t steal it.”
The split signifies both an extraordinary dispute over election integrity within the Republican Party and a preview of the control the president may continue to exert over the conservative base even after he leaves office. As Mr. Trump talks seriously about the possibility of mounting another bid for the White House in 2024, his personal goals may not always align with those of his party — no matter the political stakes.
“I had someone message me just last week saying: ‘Nope, I’m done. Can’t trust the election. Never voting again,’” said Buzz Brockway, a former Republican state representative. “The president has a very dedicated group of supporters who don’t really support the broader Republican Party — they support him.”