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Joe Biden said the economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic could be the biggest challenge the U.S. faces in modern history, suggesting fallout from the dual health and economic crises could rival what the country faced after the Great Depression.
“I think it’s probably the biggest challenge in modern history, quite frankly. I think it may not dwarf, but eclipse what F.D.R. faced,” Biden said Tuesday night during an interview on CNN, referring to President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
The Democratic presidential frontrunner, however, said the crisis could create an opportunity for the next president to make major structural changes, like addressing climate change and ensuring the U.S. has a voting system that’s accessible to everyone. Biden also said that any legislation aimed at helping the economy to recover needs to include basic provisions like helping people to pay rent.
“We have an opportunity to do so many things now to change some of the structural things that are wrong,” the former vice president said. “Some things we couldn't get anybody's attention on. In a sense, no pun intended, the band-aid has been ripped off here.”
Biden also described his phone call with President Trump about the federal government’s response to the outbreak. During the call, which took place on Monday, Biden said he told Trump that the pandemic response is “about taking responsibility.”
"I laid out what I thought he should be doing. I laid out four or five specific points that I thought were necessary. I indicated that it is about taking responsibility, and being the commander in chief, taking on the responsibility,” Biden said.
Biden said he and Trump had a “good conversation” and said the president was “very gracious,” but declined to provide further details, saying that Trump asked that the specifics of the call remain private.
The call marked a rare ceasefire between the two political rivals, who will likely face-off against each other during the November general election. Biden previously blamed Trump for ignoring early warning signs about the virus and worsening the pandemic with a lackluster response.