Joe Biden pledged Tuesday to be a leader for every American and will work across the aisle to shepherd through change, he said during a holiday address.

What You Need To Know

  • President-elect Joe Biden on Tuesday praised Republican and Democrats in Congress for passing a bipartisan COVID relief bill Monday

  • Biden said while the deal is a compromise, "leaders in both the House and the Senate in both parties deserve credit" for making it happen

  • Biden criticized President Trump for failing to formally recognize Russia as the perpatrator of a widespread cyber attack against the U.S.

  • Numerous federal officials say the recently-discovered cyber attack contains hallmarks of those typically perpetrated by Russia

It was a message perhaps best summed up in a line Biden delivered near the end of his address: “I’m not gonna villainize the opposition.” 

Bipartisanship was the main through-line in Biden’s speech, where the president-elect applauded Congress for passing the coronavirus relief as the nation deals with a COVID-19 surge that’s casting a shadow over the Christmas holiday. 

“The leaders in both the House and the Senate in both parties deserve credit for making the hard compromises to get this done,” Biden said Tuesday. “Like all compromises, this is far from perfect. Congress did their job this week, and I can and I must ask them to do it again next year.” 

The bill includes appropriations to fund government agencies and functions through the end of fiscal year 2021 — a $1.4 trillion measure — along with a $900 billion relief package, which renews unemployment relief, small business aid and delivers direct $600 payments to Americans. It also includes funding for rental assistance, education, vaccine distribution and other hurting industries. 

Biden said the deal is only a “down payment” for Americans, and pledged to push for more relief on his first day in office. His proposal will include another round of direct payments to most Americans, Biden said Tuesday, but he demurred when asked what the exact numbers would be. 

“That’s a negotiating issue,” Biden said of the direct payments. 

Biden reserved his criticism not for the Republican party as a whole, but for its leader, President Donald Trump. Making a sharp turn to address the recent discovery of a widespread cyber attack against the United States, Biden said the breach was evidence that the Trump administration “failed to prioritize cyber security.”

“As with the relief bill passed by Congress, there is another challenge which my administration will confront on a bipartisan basis — the massive cybersecurity breach against U.S. companies and federal agencies,” Biden said of the attack. 

“There is still so much that we don’t know, including the full scope of the breach or the extent of the damage it has caused,” he continued. “But we know this much — this attack constitutes a grave risk to our national security.” 

Numerous federal officials — including both Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Attorney General William Barr — say the cyber attack contains hallmarks of those typically perpetrated by Russia. Still, President Trump has refused to accept the possibility, and even took to Twitter over the weekend to suggest China might be behind the attack.

Biden on Tuesday said he was “disappointed by the response of President Trump” following the breach, calling on the administration to formally attribute the attack to Russia. 

“This assault happened on Donald Trump’s watch,” Biden said. “It is still his responsibility as president to defend American interests for the next four weeks, but rest assured that even if he does not take this seriously, I will.” 

When asked what his response will be to those behind the attack, Biden said an investigation into the incident — as well as the incident itself — is still underway. “They can be sure that we respond, and we will respond in kind,” Biden said when pressed.

Biden used the moment as yet another opportunity to preach bipartisanship, saying he “was pleased to see leaders in both parties in Congress speak out loudly and clearly on this attack.”

“I want to thank prominent Republicans in the Senate particularly for speaking out,” Biden added. 

On Sunday, GOP Senator Mitt Romney of Utah told NBC’s “Meet the Press” the president “has a blind spot when it comes to Russia” following the widespread attack.

“It is a sign that with a new administration, we can confront these threats on a bipartisan basis with a united front here at home,” Biden said of Republicans like Romney who have spoken out about the threat. “That should be encouraging to the American people and a warning to our adversaries.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.